Madeleines. Elegant simplicity, deliciously captured in small, shell-shaped cookies. The madeleine has a quiet grace, not preening for your love with mind-blowing flavors or chocolate oozing goodness. However that quiet simplicity inspires adoration and longing. A well-made madeleine has the ability to pause time, and allow one the chance to reflect and savor the simple beauty in life.
My love affair with madeleines began nearly 10 years ago when I was managing a cafe/market. Everyday around 3 o’clock there would be a lull between the lunch rush and the late afternoon crowd/clean-up routine. During this pause Antoine (my blue-collar French friend) and I would quietly make ourselves an espresso with a dollop of fresh whipped cream, grab a madeleine, lean up against the marble counter tops and silently enjoy life. It became one of those inner restaurant rituals that helped us maintain sound, peaceful minds even on the crappiest of days.
Now, years later, any time I have a madeleine I’m reminded of that feeling, two friends side by side, pausing time to appreciate life’s small pleasures.
If there is something I love eating, I want to be able to make it at home and craft it with at least a comparable quality for which I know it can be done. Usually I succeed, but in regards to madeleines I have failed. I’ve never been able to nail the texture. I’ve gone through a dozen recipes, trying them multiple times attempting to properly decipher and correctly make the recipe. Some have been good, but never “it.”
The same frustrations have come with buying madeleines. I rarely find a madeleine that has time-pausing goodness. Madeleines have become one of those delights I long for, yet rarely am able to enjoy. Until now. A few months ago, Keiko over at Nordljus posted a recipe for Truffle Honey Madelines which she adapted from Claire Clarke, head pastry chef at The French Laundry. Nearly all of you have probably seen the post, and those of you who haven’t, should. Keiko’s photographic skills immerse you in their warmth and rustic beauty. She inspires us every time we visit her site.
After reading Keiko’s post, I felt there was something special about these madeleines. I knew that I needed to try them, and I made a serious mental note to make this recipe.
There was this inner feeling that this may be the recipe I had been searching and longing for. Eventually I set aside the time to try my hand in making these little pastry mistresses. The excitement and anticipation built as the recipe progressed. It was simple, yet elegant. Just as madeleines should be.
The batter had good flavor and everything seemed very promising. I used a mini-madeleine pan so the baking time was even quicker than usual. After a brief moment baking, I pulled the little mini-madeleines out of the oven, popped them off the pan, barely allowed them to cool and had a taste. Time paused. For quite a long time. Everything I had been searching for and intimately longing for in a madeleine had now been found. Thank you Keiko and Claire.
Nothing needs to be changed from Claire Clark’s or Keiko’s adaption of this recipe because they are perfect. But to give you another option to play with the madeleines, here is a slightly alcoholic chocolate dipping sauce version.
The madeleines have such an incredibly delicate texture, we didn’t want to contrast to heavily against it by using a straight tempered chocolate to dip with, so we took our basic ganache recipe, softened it a bit more by changing the ratio, added a little adult beverage kick, then serve the chocolate dipping sauce slightly warmed along side the madeleines. The sauce will be fairly soft even at room temp., but warming it little gives it the best mouthfeel, temp. & texture-wise. If you’d like the madeleines to be dipped the classic way, (like Jen did here for her canided orange peels) after the madeleines have cooled, temper some dark chocolate, dip the madeleines half-way, then allow to cool on some wax paper. We bake our madeleines with a mini-madeleine pan because they are just so damn cute, but the recipe works the same for regular sized madeleines, just approx. double the baking time.
Adapted from Claire Clarke's Indulge.
Tuaca Chocolate Dipping Sauce
Tuaca is an exquisite Italian brandy based liqueur that has been crafted with vanilla and citrus. If you don't have any in your bar, substitute the alcohol of your choice. Dark rum and Kahlua are excellent options. For a virgin sauce, use about 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 1/2 Tablespoons filtered OJ.
- 6 1/2 Tablespoons (90 g) unsalted butter (plus extra for buttering molds)
- 1 Tablespoon (15 g) quality Honey (tupelo honey is our fav.)
- 3/4 cup (90 g) Flour (unbleached, all-purpose)
- 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) Baking Powder
- 2 Eggs
- 2/3 cup (75 g) Confectioners sugar
- 2 teaspoons (10g) Brown Sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 Egg Yolk
- 2 Tablespoons (30g) Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 cup (120ml) Heavy Cream
- 1/4 lb. (125g) Dark Chocolate (chopped in fine pieces)
- pinch of sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons (30ml) Tuaca
Combine butter and honey in a saucepan and melt the butter. Set aside and allow to cool a bit.
Combine the flour and baking powder together in a sifter and set aside.
Whisk the eggs, sugars, and salt together until everything is a pale yellow and at least doubled in size. The batter should fall in ribbons from the whisk. (This step takes a bit of whisking. It's much more comfortable to do on a machine than by hand.)
Sift the flour and baking powder on top of the batter and gently fold. Pour the cooled honey/butter along the edge of the bowl so it gently pools on top of the batter. Gently mix, trying to maintain the volume as best possible. Cover and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 30min.-1 hr.
Preheat oven to 425° F regular bake or 400°F convection bake. Melt about 1 Tablespoon butter and brush the madeleine molds.
Carefully pour batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 4pt or 6pt tip (depending on your madeleine pan.) Try to keep from over-handling the batter and destroying it's volume. Alt. method. Put batter in gallon size plastic bag then cut tip of one corner for an instant, disposable pastry bag. Pipe a line of batter in each mold cavity filling about 85% full (batter will spread during baking, so don't worry about pressing it to edges.)
Place in oven on middle rack, and bake for no more than 5 minutes (10 min. for regular madeleine pans.) Be careful not to over-bake or else the madeleines will dry out. Immediately remove madeleines from molds and allow to cool on a wire rack.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolk and sugar until it is a pale yellow and slightly fluffy.
In a saucepan, combine heavy cream and chocolate pieces. Heat over medium heat until chocolate is fully melted and temperature is about 160°F. Remove from heat.
Pour chocolate into egg mixture and stir until fully incorporated. Continue stirring for a minute or two to make sure sugar is fully dissolved. Add pinch of salt and Tuaca and stir until incorporated. Sauce keeps at room temp for about a week, and longer when refrigerated.