Here’s a recipe for the quintessential French cookie, and it comes from my friend, pastry chef François Payard. Madeleines really are more like small cakes than cookies, but however you categorize them, they are soft, moist and delicious – perfectly suited to enjoy with a cup of tea. François’s version is fairly traditional, but he makes the batter in a food processor, which is not only easy, but also brings out the essential oils in the citrus zest and ensures that the butter is properly emulsified. I only made one small change to his recipe, which was to use the zest of one lemon and one orange instead of two lemons. The combination of lemon, orange, honey and vanilla is just right – delicate enough so that the buttery back-note of the cookies is not lost. Note that the batter must rest overnight, to allow the flour molecules to relax, which will help with the rise.
Makes about 30 madeleines
- Melted butter, for coating pans
- 1 ¼ cups (162 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pans
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 large (200 grams) eggs
- ¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 ½ tablespoons (34 grams) light brown sugar
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 2 ½ teaspoons honey
- 12 tablespoons (170 grams) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
- Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Make the batter
- In a bowl (or onto a piece of parchment paper), sift together the flour and baking powder; set aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor, place the eggs, both sugars, the lemon and orange zest, vanilla and salt and process until blended, about 15 seconds. Remove about 1 cup of the egg mixture to a bowl, leaving the remaining in the food processor. Set aside.
- Place the honey and butter in a Pyrex measure or microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for 30 seconds. Stir, then heat again until the butter is melted and hot, about 45 seconds more. While the machine is running, add the butter mixture to the batter in the food processor, mixing just until blended. Add the flour mixture and pulse until combined. Finally, add the remaining egg mixture and process just until smooth. Transfer the batter to a container, cover well and refrigerate overnight (or up to 3 days).
Bake the madeleines
- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 450˚F (if you have a convection oven, set it at 425˚F). Put two madeleine pans in the freezer for 10 minutes.
- Remove the pans from the freezer and brush the cavities well with melted butter, making sure to coat every area. Dust the cavities with flour, tapping out the excess. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Pipe or spoon the chilled batter into the prepared molds, filling them ¾ full. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake the madeleines for 5 minutes, then lower the temperature to 400˚F (375˚F for convection oven) and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes, or until golden brown. (Don’t open the oven during baking or the madeleines might deflate.) Remove the pan from the oven and immediately unmold the madeleines by inverting them onto the prepared baking sheet. Place shell-side down to preserve the peaks. Serve immediately, dusted with confectioners’ sugar, if you like.