Here's one for my culinary bucket list ... the petite sweet cake/cookie that is shaped like a long shell ... the sweet Madeleine. I have always thought these French confections were difficult to make. Yes, they need a dedicated pan with the shell design for forming their distinct shape. Yes, one must whip the heck out of the eggs and sugar before carefully folding in the rest of the batter ingredients. Yes, one must chill the batter for a couple hours. Yes, one must be careful about leveling the batter in the pan's shells and watch for the perfect golden crust to form around the edges. But, really? It was no big deal.
The biggest deal is eating them at their prime ... that is, within a couple hours of coming from the oven. They are lightest and airiest within that window of time. The glaze retains its sweet gummy sheen and the sugar sits atop and coats your lips when you bite in ... it's sublime. And my question remain ... are they a cake or a cookie? Or the closest that a French patisserie will ever get to a donut?
I made these Maple Madeleines to take to a special party ... a sugaring off party held at a friend's farm up a ways in the woods north of Keene. The Gowen family has produced maple sugar for a good long time ... today I saw three different trophy awards that they've earned over the years for quality maple sugar production, stood around the wood fire in the lower sugar house where they finished off sugar before bottling it up for sale, and looked at old photos and newspaper clippings that chronicle their years in the maple industry. Incidentally ... they throw a great party!
Maple sugar is big business for the small farmer in New England ... it's a seasonal boon that many a farmer takes advantage of in those weeks before plowing, seeding, tending to new little members of the herd, and turning to the myriad tasks and hard work of the growing season. I'm sure glad they do it because slackers like me reap the benefits!
Now, I know these Madeleines are not the traditional French version, but my, my they did do the trick for me. I researched several recipes on-line and settled for this Martha Stewart recipe that the boys on The Bitten Word showcased back in September of 2011 ... my only criticism is that this is a HONKER recipe ... I made four dozen Madeleines ... it's a damn good thing I was headed to a party or we'd be gaining about ten pounds after scarfing these little devils! Just sayin ...
a Martha Stewart recipe
Makes 4 dozen
½ c. maple syrup
2 sticks unsalted butter (1c.)
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
6 large eggs, room temperature
⅛ tsp. kosher salt
1 c. sugar
2 tbsp. light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
A metal Madeleine pan
Glaze for brushing baked Madeleines
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Whisk together until smooth:
½ c. maple syrup
2 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
Making the Dish:
- Place a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat and add ½ c. maple syrup. Boil the syrup for 15 minutes or until it is reduced by half.
- Add 2 sticks of butter to the hot syrup and allow it to melt, whisking now and then.
- Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set it aside.
- Break the eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment loaded.
- Add the kosher salt and whisk briskly for three minutes.
- While the eggs are whisking, mix the sugar and brown sugar to break up any lumps in the brown. Add the sugars to the frothy eggs and continue whisking for ten minutes, until the mixture is frothy and light yellow and smooth and airy.
- Fold in the flour mixture in two additions.
- Fold in the butter and sugar mixture gently until the batter is completely incorporated.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F and butter(or spray) the shells of the Madeleine pan. Fill the depressions ¾ full, level the batter, and bake for 9 minutes – until the cakes have risen slightly and the edges are a golden brown.
- Remove from oven and tip the pan over racks, sliding the Madeleines out to cool.
- Turn them so that the shell design is up and cool for a couple minutes. Brush the shell side with maple glaze and let them sit for another couple minutes. Dust generously with confectioner’s sugar and plate in one layer on a platter. If you mound them, place layers of waxed paper between the layers to preserve the dusted tops.
Notes: Butter or use oven spray to coat the pan each time you bake a batch. Let the pan cool slightly between batches.