Traveling the world through cuisine

Madeleines Frank?

The Transporter

It’s funny what I’ll pick up from the most unlikely of sources. Back in 2002 when I was enjoying Jason Stratham’s depiction of Frank Martin, my mind was aroused by more than just wild driving and fancy shooting. It was the scene when Lai (Shu Qi) made Frank coffee, tea, and fresh madeleines. Even the character of Inspector Tarconi (François Berléand) was mesmerized and taken back to his childhood by these small tasty treats.

Ever since that night and every time I’ve watched The Transporter, I’ve become more and more fascinated with madeleines. Perhaps it’s the whole European vibe about them, or just that some small fluffy cakes with coffee sound too good to pass up. I tried some from a Starbucks, and while I found them tasty, I wanted to see what the fresh ones would taste like.

The biggest misconception on madeleines is that many believe them to be cookies, when they are not. Madeleines are actually small French cakes, because their texture is that of cake, not crunchy or doughy like cookies are. Their origin came from the Lorraine region of France, specifically Commercy and Liverdun. Traditionally served as a breakfast item or a treat with coffee or tea.

My own experiences in baking madeleines taught me just how different baking is from cooking. When I make a dish, I can variate easily. Add or remove spices, ingredients, and try different approaches. With baking you don’t get this kind of freedom unless you really know what you’re doing, and how things will affect or change the final product. The recipes I post here are not my own or even some variated version of someone else’s. I’ll give credit to where I found them because while you do have many varieties of what you could make in terms of madeleines, one recipe does not fit them all as I learned the hard way.

Madeleine panI’ll also stress that if you’re planning on making madeleines, buy the pan. I read over many sources on the internet the importance of having a madeleine pan when making these tasty cakes not even for the seashell shape they become, but simply because that pan and shape is part of what makes a madeleine so soft and fluffy. I’d also suggest an electric hand mixer, but this isn’t required. I made some with a hand whisk, but found an electric mixer such a great help.

Traditional madeleines have a sweet buttery lemon flavor to them. After looking over many recipes, I found one on Allrecipes.com that looked good to me. It was written by Judy Farris, but I will say I did add more lemon peel to my madeleines to enhance that lemon flavor over what she wrote. Here’s what I did:

Traditional Madeleines

Traditional Madeleines

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 2/3 cup of white sugar
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • Zest of one whole lemon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and leave in a liquid form. Butter two madeleine pans with some of the butter.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla and salt until light.
  4. Stirring constantly, gradually add the sugar. Continue stirring until mixture is thick and pale.
  5. Add in the flour a quarter at a time, gently folding into the mixture and then stirring the whole mixture until thick and unified.
  6. Stir in the lemon zest, and then the butter. Fold until mixture is unified.
  7. Using a tablespoon, place about 1 1/2 to 2 spoonfuls of batter in each mold. The batter should pretty much reach the top of the mold.
  8. Bake the madeleines for 14-17 minutes, or until you can see the cakes turning golden brown around the edges.
  9. Remove from pan when possible, allow to slightly cool, but serve warm.

Quick Notes

If you have an electric mixer, work to put as much air into the mixture as possible. Believe me the final product will be more fluffy and delicious.

Variations

You can substitute orange zest into this recipe for a slightly different flavor.

When Zuzana told some of her colleagues of my madeleine exploration, one of her colleagues, Ella, shared with me a great recipe for honey lavender madeleines. When I tried using Judy Farris’ recipe and just substituting honey for sugar, I ended up with very rubbery piece of cake that wasn’t to my liking. When I tried Ella’s recipe, I ended up with much more favorable results.

In terms of the dried lavender, I found mine at Whole Foods. You go into the section where they have vitamins and supplements, and they’ll have large jars of spices for sale in bulk. Very inexpensive and very cool. If you don’t have access to Whole Foods, then try a spice shop or even a tea shop.

Honey Lavender Madeleines

Honey Lavender Madeleines

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 1 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp of dried lavender
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup of sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and leave in a liquid form. Butter two madeleine pans with some of the butter.
  3. Stir the honey into the remaining butter and keep the mixture as a liquid.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, dried lavender, and salt. Set aside.
  5. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla until light.
  6. Stirring constantly, gradually add the sugar. Continue stirring until mixture is thick and pale.
  7. Add in the flour/lavender mixture in a quarter at a time, gently folding into the mixture and then stirring the whole mixture until thick and unified.
  8. Stir in the honey/butter combination. Fold until mixture is unified.
  9. Using a tablespoon, place about 1 1/2 to 2 spoonfuls of batter in each mold. The batter should pretty much reach the top of the mold.
  10. Bake the madeleines for 8-15 minutes, or until you can see the cakes turning golden brown around the edges.
  11. Remove from pan when possible, allow to slightly cool, but serve warm.

Quick Notes

If you have an electric mixer, work to put as much air into the mixture as possible. Believe me the final product will be more fluffy and delicious.

Finally, I can’t go about making sweet anything without chocolate. Just doesn’t seem worth it to me to not see if there is a variety for my fellow chocoholics. Diana Rattray posted a great recipe for chocolate madeleines on about.com. Again, when I tried Judy Farris’ recipe to make chocolate madeleines, I ended up with very thick and limp cakes. Rattray’s usage of baking powder is the key ingredient that makes them fluff up into beautiful treats that remind me of fluffy brownies. I also added on some almond extract for added flavor.

Chocolate Madeleines

Chocolate Madeleines

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp of almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 3/4 cup of white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp of baking powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and leave in a liquid form. Butter two madeleine pans with some of the butter.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the butter, almond, and salt until light.
  4. Stirring constantly, gradually add the sugar. Continue stirring until mixture is thick and pale.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix the flour together with the cocoa powder and baking powder.
  6. Add in the flour/cocoa/baking powder combination a quarter at a time, gently folding into the mixture and then stirring the whole mixture until thick and unified.
  7. Using a tablespoon, place about 1 spoonful of batter in each mold.
  8. Bake the madeleines for 10-12 minutes, or until the madeleine springs back when touched.
  9. Remove from pan when possible, allow to slightly cool, but serve warm.

Quick Notes

If you have an electric mixer, work to put as much air into the mixture as possible. Believe me the final product will be more fluffy and delicious.

The smaller amount of batter in each mold is on purpose. The baking powder will literally make them grow large in the oven. So you won’t need as much batter in each mold.

I love these madeleines, and apparently so do my coworkers, Zuzana’s colleagues, and my family.  They’re the perfect treat to serve with coffee.  Not too sweet, but not bland at all.  Even now I see more varieties like cranberry-almond online as recipes. I urge you to give it a shot for a great Thanksgiving holiday.  Just remember the lesson I learned and don’t make the same mistake yourself.  Baking is more a science, so unless you know what you’re doing, don’t venture too much beyond the recipes.

Enjoy!

Madeleines

Tags: chocolate, French, honey, lavender, madeleine

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