French Lemon Madeleines with Glaze

To all the loyal readers, I apologize for my almost-a-month hiatus–between traveling for the 9-5’er and getting sick back-to-back it’s been a bit rough. But nothing says comeback like 70-degree weather and some lemony French tidbits!

There’s a French chain bakery/café near my work called La Madeleine, and though it’s a chain, it has some of the most classically French food I’ve tasted in a long time. I could gush about their blackberry cream cheese croissant, or their raspberry tarts, but what I like the most is what the bakery is named for: the lemon madeleines.

Before last month, I had never tried one and now, against the wishes of my wallet and my hips, I usually eat them twice a week. These little cakes are more dense than sponge but not completely cake-like, either, and can be eaten in about two bites. What makes them especially lovely is not just their scalloped shape, but the edges are always crispy…from baking in butter-lined pans. [Swoon :)] They also have a very light icing glaze which balances the tartness of the lemon.

It seems that no one’s quite sure how madeleines originated, even the Larousse Gastronomique (an encyclopedia of French cuisine), offers conflicting histories, but madeleines can either be plain or lemon, and can either consist of simple flour or ground almond flour.

And while this recipe, taken from The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz, is traditionally French, it’s not quite the exact consistency of La Madeleine’s. Ah, mais c’est la vie, non? I’ll continue to experiment in upcoming months and be sure to let all those La Madeleine fans know if I nail it. In the meantime, enjoy these little tastes of Paris springtime 😉

[Makes 24 madeleines] *Note: You will need to start this the night before you want to bake them, as the batter and pan need to chill overnight.

Equipment:

  • Madeleine pan (non-stick works the best)
  • Stand or electric mixer
  • Pastry brush
  • Spatula

Ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs, rm. temp.
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 cup cake flour (make sure it’s non self-rising)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder (this will give the madeleines their signature round bump)
  • Zest of one small lemon
  • 9 Tbl. unsalted butter, melted and cooled at rm. temp. + additional melted butter for the pans (I like to use Président butter b/c it’s French and it’s the best butter in terms of taste)
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbl. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbl. water

Brush the indentations of the madeleine pan with melted butter. If your pan is not non-stick, dust with flour and tap off any excess. If your pan is non-stick, you don’t have to dust. Place the pan in the fridge for chilling overnight.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a handheld mixer), whip the eggs, sugar, and salt for 5 min. until the mix is frothy and thickened. Sift the flour and baking powder into the batter, a little at a time, folding in each batch with the spatula. Add the lemon zest to the cooled melted butter and dribble in the batter, a few spoonfuls at a time, folding after each addition. Fold just until all the butter is incorporated. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

To bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Plop enough batter in the center of each indentation to fill 3/4 of each. Do not spread the batter; leave as-is. Put the rest of the batter back in the fridge. Bake for 8 minutes. While the cakes are baking, make the glaze by stirring together the powdered sugar, lemon juice and water until smooth.

Remove madeleines from the oven and turn over onto a cooling rack. As soon as the madeleines are cool enough to handle, dip the belly and top in the glaze, placing them back on the cooling rack scalloped side down.

If you want to finish the madeleine batter to get all 24 madeleines, clean and rinse the madeleine pan, then coat with more melted butter. Place the pan in the freezer for about 10-15 min, or until the butter has frozen. Spoon batter exactly like before and bake.

Madeleines are best the day they’re made, but can be keep in a container up to 3 days.

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