I love madeleines, and nothing beats a warm madeleine fresh from the oven in my opinion. While they are still great the next day, there is something so wonderful about a freshly baked madeleine.
When I was in Paris a few years ago, I was determined to find a lovely freshly baked madeleine in one of the many patisseries I planned on going to. While I did try one at Ladurée, I distinctly remember thinking it wasn’t bad, but wasn’t as good as I had expected and sort of wished I had of ordered one the rose réligieuse my Mum was eating. Strangely I also saw packets of pre-made madeleines in the small supermarkets we stopped into to get milk, and felt quite surprised to see such a thing being sold.
I did however find some lovely very tiny madeleine tins from the cooking supply shop E. Dehillerin. They wrapped them up in brown paper, and I have to admit I didn’t unwrap them for quite a while as it looked so pretty just like that. The shop looked as if it hadn’t changed since it opened in 1820, and buying something from there felt like stepping back in time. I oddly only bought one tray, I think I was overawed by all the baking goods and worried about luggage space, but since the madeleine moulds are so so small, you would need at least four trays to cook a whole batch at once! Hopefully one day I will return to Paris and add to my madeleine tray collection.
To make vanilla sugar use the left over vanilla bean pods - add one or two used vanilla bean pods to 1-2 cups of caster sugar and leave to infuse in a airtight container or glass jar. The longer you leave the sugar and vanilla to infuse, the deeper the flavour you will get. I would recommend leaving it to infuse for about a month before you use it for maximum flavour. The vanilla sugar can then be used in baking or as a garnish.
80g unsalted butter, softened
100g vanilla sugar, plus extra
seeds of one vanilla pod (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste)
100g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
The day before you wish to bake the madeleines prepare the batter. Cream the butter with one tablespoon of the vanilla sugar. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, remaining vanilla sugar and vanilla until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Whisk the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl to remove any lumps, then gently fold in to the whisked eggs.
Add one third of the batter to the creamed butter and mix well. Add the remaining batter to the creamed butter and fold in very gently.
Place a medium-large plastic piping bag over a large glass or jug so it is easy to fill. Transfer the batter into the piping bag and seal the top end with an elastic band. Leave in the fridge overnight (or for at least 3 hours).
When you are ready to bake the madeleines, preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius and prepare two twelve hole madeline trays by greasing them lightly with butter then dusting with flour (if your trays are non stick this isn’t 100% necessary, I forgot one of the times I made these and I didn’t notice any difference).
Snip a small hole at the piping end of the piping bag containing your madeleine batter and pipe the batter into the prepared tins, filling each hole about 3/4 the way up.
Reduce the oven temperature to 180 degrees Celsius and bake for 10-12 minutes or until they are lightly golden in colour. Leave in the tins for a few minutes to cool, then cool completely on a wire rack.
Madeleines are best eaten the day of baking and can be served as they are, with a dusting of icing sugar or a sprinkling of vanilla sugar.
Reference: Fanny Zanotti ‘Paris Pastry Club’ (Hardie Grant Books, 2014) p.15.