Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cardamom Madeleines

It seems like madeleines are all the rage right now. I’ve been sitting on this recipe for months and of course when I come back to post it, I see recipes for madeleines everywhere!

If you’re not familiar with them, madeleines are French cookies that are really more like little cakes. Best served warm from the oven, they have a lightly crisp exterior that gives way to a light, spongy, interior that is redolent of butter and should be barely sweet, just so to make them the perfect companion for afternoon tea.  

It was the latter that inspired me to spike my madeleines with cardamom. OK, who am I kidding, I put cardamom in practically everything I can get away with. But lately I’ve taken to making myself a mug of masala chai in the afternoon and I thought that a cardamom madeleine would be the perfect sweet accompaniment (although my accompaniment of choice is a samosa).

Madeleines are really easy to make but there’s one limiting factor: you need a madeleine pan. Although the best ones are supposedly old and made of cast iron, a new, nonstick version will work just fine. Part of the appeal of these little cakes are their signature scalloped shape that, at least to me, makes them much more special than any cookie or cupcake. 

The other limiting factor is that the batter is supposed to rest, chilled, for at least an hour. This has never been a problem for me because I’ll make the batter before starting on other kitchen projects – it comes together really quickly because there’s no butter to soften and a big bowl of warm water bring cold eggs to room temperature fairly quickly – and then bake just a few madeleines after our meal so we can have them fresh from the oven. However, I’ve never tried baking these without resting them, so if you do, let me know how they turn out (just fine, I’m sure). 

You can certainly omit the cardamom from these madeleines but I urge you not to – the hint of spice makes these little treats impossible to resist and dare I say better than the original version.


Cardamom Madeleines
makes 16 medium madeleines

4 ounces unsalted butter
110g (about 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
110 g (¾ cup + 4 teaspoons) all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon freshly ground cardamom (use a bit more if using pre-ground)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, room temperature

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons all purpose flour


Cut the 4 ounces of butter into ½” cubes and place in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat on medium power for 90 seconds, stopping every 30 seconds to swirl the bowl. Set aside and let the butter come to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt. Add the two eggs and whisk to combine.

Add the melted butter and gently but thoroughly whisk to combine. At first, it will seem impossible to get the butter to incorporate into the batter, but after a few turns of the whisk, it will start to come together.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. (I keep the batter in the fridge for several days so that I can bake just a few madeleines at a time – they’re so much better when they’re warm from the oven!)

Set a rack in the middle of your oven and heat to 400 F. Lightly butter each of the wells of the madeleine pan with the 1 tablespoon of butter and dust them with the 2 tablespoons of flour (I do this using a small sieve).

Use a scoop or a small spoon to scoop 1 heaping tablespoon of batter into each of the wells. Bake for 7-8 minutes; the tops of the madeleines should have formed a hump and be just set without any coloring and the bottoms (the scalloped side) should be light golden brown (although not uniformly golden).

Remove the pan from the oven and let the madeleines sit in the pan for 1 minute, then serve immediately.

You can store the madeleines in an airtight container but make sure to let them cool completely first. However, they’re best fresh from the oven, so it’s best to bake them fresh to order – it takes just a few minutes and it’s totally worth the little bit of effort to bite through the warm, crisp crust into the soft, pillowy center.  After all, it's the bite that Proust made famous.

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