No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin.
And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me...Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?
... And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.
—Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
I realize my petite muffins are not true madeleines - little French butter cakes that look more like cookies - because they were not baked in a special "madeleine" pan with distinctive shell-shaped depressions. However, I just didn't need another special pan that I would probably use once or twice and never again. I already had one of those in my collection, an ornate mini muffin pan, destined to be used once or twice and never again…and it worked just fine.
Reading about the historical origins of madeleines was more interesting than baking and eating them. I wasn't necessary disappointed in the final product, but it has been pretty tough topping that incredible Marquise au Chocolat last month. I'm sure the best madeleines are those found in Paris! They are just one of those treats that require the whole Parisian experience to truly enjoy.
Madeleines appear to be simple to make, but the goal is to produce a unique little cake that is browned and crispy on the outside, and spongy and soft on the inside. It must also sport a cute little bump on its back.
To achieve the classic bump, the batter is chilled for an hour before pouring it into the molds of the pan, and then the entire pan is chilled for another hour. Additionally, while the oven preheats, a baking sheet is placed on the rack to get nice and hot. When ready to bake, the cold madeleine pan is placed on top of the hot baking sheet for baking. My little muffins formed domes on their backs with this technique.
David Lebovitz agrees double-resting the batter twice is the key to achieving the characteristic hump or bump. Check out the hump on these beauties from Blé sucré bakery.
Dorie's recipe in Baking Chez Moi is for classic lemon-scented madeleines, dusted with powdered sugar. If you wish to partake in another step, you can add a lemon glaze.
"But the icing on the cake (or should I say the icing on the Madeleine?) is the light citrusy glaze that moistens and elevates these Madeleines from being something ordinary to being the moist, yet delicately-dainty little cakes that makes writers rhapsodize about." - David Lebovitz
The only addition I made to Dorie's recipe was adding a half teaspoon of dried lavender to the sugar and lemon zest mixture. For the finish, I opted for a simple dusting of powdered sugar.
Madeleines are traditionally paired with afternoon tea, but morning coffee worked fine for me. They are also best served the day they are made, or they start to loose the crispness on the outside.
Tuesdays with Dorie is an online cooking group where anyone can bake along. We bake with two books – Baking with Julia and Baking Chez Moi. I bake along with the Baking Chez Moi group. We bake two recipes per month (voted on by the members in advance) and post on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. We are asked to refrain from including the actual recipe in our posts, to promote the publishing industry and encourage others to buy the cookbooks.