Growing up there was one cookbook that stood out among the rest: the bright yellow tattered copy of La Cuisinière Provençale, a classic French cookbook originally published in 1897 that favored simple recipes without superfluous fuss or drama. One of our favorites is a surprisingly simple recipe for the quintessential French cookie: Madeleines.
We learned to make these cookies years ago with our Tante Marie teaching us the way her mother had taught her. It involves some elbow grease, but the ingredients are simple and the approach is uncomplicated. The results are comforting and full of satisfying flavor and texture.
What You Need
8 eggs, separated
500 grams sugar (1 1/4 cups)
500 grams melted butter (2 cups)
500 grams sifted flour (4 1/2 cups)
Zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or other flavor (optional)
In addition to normal kitchen tools you will need some Madeleine pans. If you have a kitchen scale, go with those measurements otherwise follow the approximations above.
(As translated from French)
1. By hand, cream the egg yolks with the sugar using a wooden spoon (the book recommends 15 minutes of creaming, but you can get away with 10 unless you have a partner to switch off with)
2. Add most of the lemon zest and any 'parfum' or flavor you might want such as vanilla extract, orange blossom water or almond extract.
3. Whip the egg whites to soft peaks.
4. Fold in the egg whites to the egg/sugar concoction and then add in the butter and flour making sure not to overwork the batter but making sure to mix well.
5. Grease the molds and drop in the batter, filling them 3/4 the way full. Sprinkle some extra zest over the tops. Clack the molds against the table to get any air bubbles to come to the surface.
6. Bake in an oven 'not overly hot'. We normally set it to 300 and wait for the madeleines to turn slightly golden and puffed, about 15 minutes.
Additional Notes: We've had great success adding some lemon juice, rosewater or even chocolate chips into the recipe to change it up. Becuase it's basically a pound cake the cookies stay good for several days as long as they're sealed up and they're wonderful with coffee.
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(Images: Laure Joliet)
(Originally published March 5, 2010)