Madeleines, Honeyed and Spiced for the Holidays
I love madeleines. I love their springy texture, their slight dryness, their beautiful shape, their light butteriness and their dunkability. And I love their independence: they’re not really cookies, even though they’re usually grouped with the cookie clan; and they’re not quite cakes, even though they’re made from a batter that’s almost identical to the one for genoise, the classic French sponge cake. That they take to being varied, only makes them that much more lovable.
Just a couple of madeleine-making tips:
- Beat the eggs and sugar together for a minute or two, just until the ingredients thicken a little and the sugar is dissolved; beat too long and thicken the ingredients too much (there’s no need for the mixture to hold its shape when you beat it) and your madeleines will be dry.
- Make sure the melted butter is not hot when you fold it into the batter and fold it in gently, thoroughly and as quickly as you can.
- Even if you’re using a nonstick madeleine pan, it doesn’t hurt to butter it and dust it lightly with flour.
- If you’ve got the time, it’s best to make the madeleine batter up to a few hours or even up to 2 days ahead; chilled, rested batter produces madeleines with bigger bumps on their backs (a good thing).
- Madeleines are fairly dry by nature and design — making them better for dunking — and really at their best shortly after they come from the oven (something that’s not true for most things we bake), so try to time your baking to your serving time. To make it easier to have just-baked madeleines, spoon the batter into the buttered-and-floured molds and slide the pan into the refrigerator to chill until baking time; bake the madeleines straight from the fridge.
HONEY SPICED MADELEINES
Makes 12 large or more than 36 mini madeleines
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (or a little less, if you prefer)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1/2 orange
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, spices, salt and pepper and keep at hand.
Working in a mixer bowl, rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment (you can make this batter easily with a handheld mixer or just a whisk, if you prefer), add the eggs to the bowl and beat until the mixture is light, fluffy and thickened, about 2 minutes; beat in the honey, then the vanilla. Switch to a rubber spatula and very gently fold in the dry ingredients followed by the melted butter. You may use the batter now, but it’s better if you can give it a little rest. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the batter and chill for 3 hours or, if you have the time, overnight. (For real convenience, you can spoon the batter into buttered-and-floured madeleine molds, cover, chill, then bake the cookies directly from the fridge. See below for instructions on prepping the pans.)
Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 12 full-size madeleine molds (or 36 mini-molds), dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. If you have a nonstick madeleine mold, butter and flour it or give it a light coating of vegetable cooking spray. (If your pan is silicone, you can leave it as is.) Place the pan on a baking sheet.
Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each one. Bake the large madeleines for 11 to 13 minutes and the minis for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the madeleines are golden and the tops spring back when prodded gently. Remove the pan from the oven and release the madeleines from the molds by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. Gently pry any recalcitrant madeleines from the pan using your fingers or a butter knife. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to just-warm or room temperature.