Cookie, Desserts, French / Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

madeleines 1

Unless you’re in traction or trapped under something heavy, life’s too short to read Remembrance of Things Past. It’s more than 3,000 pages–roughly the length of War and Peace, Gone With the Wind, and Bill Clinton’s My Life combined.

What do you need to know about Marcel Proust’s masterpiece? It’s all about involuntary memory. The narrator tastes a madeleine, remembers ones his aunt gave him as a child, and starts remembering his childhood in detail. From there, he decides to write about his entire life. Proust kept adding details until he died.

I’m surprised his editors didn’t kill him.

I’d always assumed madeleines were cookies, but they’re actually buttery, lemony little tea cakes. If you piped a little marshmallow fluff inside, they would taste like very high-end Twinkies. The shell shape comes from the madeleine pan.

How did they fare at our house? Jeff and I thought they were good, but Henry the French Bulldog inhaled them. I used them to sneak him his allergy meds. Do you remember the scene in Velvet Goldmine where the rock star snorts cocaine off a hooker’s back? That was Henry with the madeleines. Then he passed out on the couch and started nursing in his sleep. Dreaming of life as a puppy.

Traditional Madeleines

From Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From My Home to Yours”

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. Working in a mixer bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
  3. Add the eggs to the bowl.
  4. Working with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together on medium-high speed until pale, thick and light, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Beat in the vanilla.
  6. With a rubber spatula, very gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter.
  7. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours, or for up to 2 days.
  8. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 12 full-size madeleine molds, or up to 36 mini madeleine molds, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Or, if you have a nonstick pan (or pans), give it a light coating of vegetable cooking spray. Place the pan(s) on a baking sheet.
  9. Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one almost to the top. Bake large madeleines for 11 to 13 minutes, and minis for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are golden and the tops spring back when touched.
  10. Remove the pan(s) from the oven and release the madeleines from the molds by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to just warm or to room temperature.
  11. Just before serving, dust the madeleines with confectioners’ sugar.

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46 thoughts on “Madeleines

  1. Beautiful madeleines, and I love the background on Proust. I, too, am surprised his editors didn’t kill him!

  2. Jeez can you say, “the scene in Velvet Goldmine where the rock star snorts cocaine off a hooker’s back”? LMAO. This one’s going in my personal scrapbook, not the fridge, lest some 8 year old asks things I can’t answer. When’s Dorie making catfish cake?

  3. So glad the dog got his meds and a cookie! Got get them in him anyway you can and they figure out the cream cheese trick really quick! Love your madeleines and you are right adding fluff does make them taste like a twinkie!

  4. I was an English major and I wasn’t all that familiar with him either. Oh well! Those are great looking cookies!

  5. omg sneaking the meds…i do the same thing but with STEAK. they look fabulous!!! love the idea of homepade twinkies too.

  6. Remembrance of Things Past… I read it while trapped in a classic literature class in my twenties. I love your comparison to high end twinkies… and your creative solution to dispensing doggie drugs. Sweet dreams Henry!

  7. OMG! I almost split a seam! Way too funny!
    On the other hand, your Madeleines are to die for! An Twinkie Madeleines? Well, you had me at the hooker’s back!

  8. Excellent post! Everything – photos, Proust, your dog’s meds, and so on. But hmmm…high end twinkies….that would be interesting.

  9. LOL…this was the last place I would have expected a Velvet Goldmine reference…or a twinkie reference!

    Beautiful madeleines…

  10. Your comments about Proust cracked me up. I had to read up a little on him last night so I’d at least have a clue about who the heck he was. The only thing I knew about him was that supposedly there are people who are “Proust scholars” (got that from the movie “Little Miss Sunshine” which I thought was a great movie).

    (Gee, look at me rambling on like an idiot here, lol.)

    Aaaaanyway, your madeleines look tea-riffic! I’m envious of your picture taking skills.

  11. Have you actually read Remembrance of Things Past? I stand in awe if you have.

    The madeleines are pretty! Anything with that much sugar on them is worth a shot. :)

  12. The grass makes them so summery and light looking!

    I lost a madelime or two to the floor in my depanning, and my lab mix gobbled them up as well. Who knew dogs liked french pastries/cookies so much!

  13. haha! totally agree with you on proust’s book! I tried to read but fell asleep within a few minutes…

    Great looking madeleines, btw! love the light golden brown color… :-)

  14. LOL!!! You kill me! You should have the snort/hiccup/guffaw that tore outta me when I read your story, it was not for the public that’s for sure! Your madeleines look perfect, not too blond, not too dark, just right!

  15. Lovely! Now I kinda wish I had made the madeleines so I would have had something to dip into my lemon cream, besides a spoon. And my fingers.

    BTW, love the name of your blog.

  16. You could put Cliff Notes out of business! The perfect one paragraph summery and I learned that my time is better spent making madelienes rather than reading about them.

  17. Great photos of the madeleines! And thanks for the quick summary of the significance of madeleines to Proust. :) I keep reading/hearing about Proust and madeleines but didn’t really know the story.

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