A few years ago, I listened to pastry chef Dominique Ansel tell Special Sauce host Ed Levine that the shelf life of a madeleine is three minutes. At his eponymous bakery in Soho, the madeleines are baked to order—they’re never tucked into a cellophane bag and stashed on a shelf to sit for days. When Dominique hands his customers madeleines, he tells them to eat them right away, and when he sees them tuck his freshly baked petite shells into their bags, he implores them not to.
Not all of Dominique’s pastries have such a short shelf life. Other baked treats, he says, age well, tasting better with time. “Food is alive,” he says, and “when you treat time as an ingredient, it changes everything.” The whole episode is a great listen, but I especially enjoyed this portion about time, which begins at 25:45.
I’ve been dying to make madeleines ever since listening to this episode, but only just got around to experimenting. Just before Easter, I found a recipe for Dominique’s madeleines online, which I made, but which didn’t turn out so well — eh, could have been me? — and so I turned to google, which led me to this lemon madeleine recipe on Epicurious, and I’ve been making it ever since.
I first baked the madeleines for Easter dessert. After turning the madeleines onto a platter, I dusted them with powdered sugar, and plopped the warm cakes into the center of the table, at which point arms savagely flew in, leaving the plate dusted with shell-shaped stencils, the only evidence of the madeleines’ brief existence. Dominque, I think, would be proud.
I’ve since baked the madeleines for a number of other occasions — a dinner at the Vischer Ferry General Store, a cooking class at Spoon and Whisk — and they’ve always been well received. And while they are irresistible straight out of the oven, my kids still devour them days later, when they’ve begun to stale and harden.
If you’re making something special for a mama in your life and have yet to decide, I highly recommend these. They are super easy: watch the step-by-step process on Instagram stories, (which now seem to be viewable on laptops and desktops … woohoo!).
Have a wonderful weekend.
Eggs and sugar; you can beat by hand, too:
Lemon zest and salt:
Adapted from this Epicurious recipe.
You will need a madeleine pan, and, for ease when portioning, a 1- to 1.5 tablespoon scoop. I have this 1.5 tablespoon scoop and find filling it level to be perfect. It is easy to be tempted to over-fill the indentations with batter, but this is what will cause the madeleines to bake unevenly. Use no more than 1.5 tablespoons of batter for each cake.
If you are not opposed to nonstick spray, it really works better than butter here. I never like buttering and flouring, because I always find the flour burns or leaves an off taste, but if you are accustomed to buttering and flouring, that is what the original recipe calls for, and that also will likely work well to prevent sticking. I haven’t had spray on hand, so I’ve been buttering generously and using a fork to release the madeleines that stick.
You can mix the batter ahead of time, store in the fridge, and bake as needed.
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup sugar
- zest from 1 lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (128 g) all-purpose flour
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, cooled slightly
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter (or coat with nonstick spray, which works best) a madeleine pan—I have four of these. Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and 2/3 cup sugar in large bowl just to blend. (Alternatively, beat vigorously with a whisk.) Add lemon zest and salt. Add flour; beat just until blended. Gradually add cooled melted butter in steady stream, beating just until blended.
- Spoon 1 tablespoon (or a heaping tablespoon—I use this scoop) batter into each indentation in pan. Bake until puffed and brown, about 12 to 16 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Gently remove from pan. Repeat process, cleaning and re-greasing the pan before each use.
- Dust cookies with powdered sugar.