I did a course in Bakery and Confectionery. Did I tell you that? Long ago. Two years. Of which, we did only breads one whole year. I was still in college; this college had a small (ish) albeit full-scale University-allied course in Culinary Craft and Bakery & Confectionery. Under the Arts discipline, you could choose the Bakery course and skip one language and one subject. I wasn’t too worried about dropping French–I could learn it anywhere, anytime. And only too glad to let go of Political Science and History. So Bakery it was. I had already established a definite liking for the oven, so it was an easy choice.

Lemon and Vanilla Madeleines

After spending the first year studying flours and yeasts, cell structures and hydration levels, and stressing over Costing modules and Nutritional evaluation, Mr. Nimboowala, our perennially annoyed geriatric Parsi teacher finally deemed us fit to tackle the pretty stuff. Dainty cakes, delicate pastries of a zillion kinds, cookies and stuff. One of the things we learned were Madeleines. But, not the  French ones I’m writing about today. What we were taught were the English version–something between a Madeleine and a Lamington. We baked them in individual cups called Dariole moulds, somewhat like Brioche moulds, only taller. Then, we stuck a skewer in them and dunked them in jam and coated them with dessicated coconut. A final flourish of a glace cherry half, and they were ready. I hated them. I don’t like dessicated coconut too much, as you probably remember from this but I do use it once in a while. But then, I discovered the French madeleines when a visiting relative brought some over. This was the stuff my dreams were made of! Light like Genoise but with a slight hint of a cookie-like crust, I could devour several in a go.

Lemon and Vanilla Madeleines

I didn’t make them for several years masking my fear of not achieving the characteristic hump under the excuse of not having a French madeleine pan. Then, along came Amazon and a kind brother-in-law. I had the pan in my hands in no time. But it didn’t fit in my tiny oven! I postponed the project indefinitely. But, the madeleine gods blessed me and my ancient oven conked off. I bought a new, big oven. I had no excuse left. I finally tried a recipe with great fear and it worked! I made them for a client and since then, I have reasonable confidence about making them.

The trick is in letting the batter rest. A minimum of two hours. Even overnight, if you can help it. Also, find yourself a nice metal madeleine pan. If not anything else, it’s pretty!

Madeleine Pan

Lemon and Vanilla Madeleines

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Zest of one lemon (or use 1 tsp. of a good marmalade)
  • 1 tsp. Pure Vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp. vanilla paste or 1 vanilla bean, scraped.
  • 100 gms. Butter (add a pinch of salt if using unsalted) + for greasing

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in the microwave. Leave to cool to temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and icing sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Sift in the flour and baking powder together and fold with a very light hand using a spatula or sharp edged spoon. This prevents the loss of aeration.
  4. Add the zest and vanilla and lightly incorporate.
  5. Gradually add the melted (and cooled) butter and fold.
  6. Refrigerate the batter, covered, for at least two and a maximum of 10 hours.
  7. Grease the madeleine pans with butter. Spoon the batter in, about three-fourths of the way up. It will spread when it goes into the oven.
  8. Bake at 180 degrees centigrade in the middle rack for 10-12 minutes depending on your oven, until a light gold and when a skewer comes out clean.
  9. Cool completely and serve with a dusting of caster sugar. Or dip in ganache. Or glaze. You get the drift.

Lemon and Vanilla Madeleines