Being an insomniac I got up at 4 AM this morning with the firm intention of cleaning out my baking gear...of course after 10 minutes of diligent work a number of small metal moulds caught my eye, I had once purchased those thinking they'd be perfect for small cakes but didn't use them yet. Looking at them I thought 'pity they're not true madeleine moulds' (should be really shell-shaped, mine have only a slightly convex bottom).
The night before I had been reading Proust and his immortal ode to the classic French madeleine cake in 'A la recherche du temps perdu' came to mind:
"No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. ... Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? ... And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea."
(Note: you can't tell from the English translation but in French it can be interpreted slightly differently...suffice it to say that Madeleine is also a girls' name)
Anyway, I decided to bake some. You can find recipes all over the net, most are based on a simple 4/4 butter cake recipe but imo that's a bit too heavy. Here's the version my grandmother handed down to me. It's lighter in texture yet still soft and moist. These keep well for 2-3 days in a hermetically sealed tin. For the flavouring I used lime zest but obviously lemon or orange are also very nice. It's imperative to use a really fine rasp though.
- 110 gr. of pastry flour (sometimes the flour type does' matter but here it does, trust me, it has to be pastry flour)
- 50 gr. unsalted butter, just melted
- 85 grams fine sugar
- 2 medium sized eggs
- Finely grated zest from one small lime
- 4 gr baking powder
- bit of vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- Sift flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl
- In another bowl, melt the butter until it's just melted, do not heat it, add the sugar and mix with a whisk, add the loosely beaten eggs, vanilla, lime zest.
- Add the liquids to the flour and whisk lightly until you obtain a smooth batter, do not overmix.
- Let rest 20-30 minutes, meanwhile....
- Preheat your oven to 220 centigrade, convection
- Apply a slight coating of butter to your madeleine moulds
- Using a spoon or pastry bag, fill to 3/4, do not overfill
- Put on a preheated* oven rack/baking tray and insert in hot oven
- Bake for 8 minutes or until cooked, watch that they don't burn.
- Remove from oven, unmold after 3 minutes, place on wire rack and let cool for at least 2 hours before eating or storage.
* It's very important that the tray on which you place the moulds be hot, you want to give the batter a 'heat kick' as fast as possible. Whatever you do, do not place them on a cold silpad, that's the worst possible option. Obviously it's also possible to use other shapes, provided they're small and relatively shallow such as for financiers for instance. Metal works a lot better than silicone though.
Yield: Approx 11 pieces.