I’ve never eaten a Madeleine. There have been opportunities but there has always been something more ostentatious that has dazzled my greed, for this I feel guilty. At least I can say I have never thought it a wise idea to buy them from the biscuit aisle in the supermarket, in a foil sealed bag with a terrifying sell by date and presumably an overly- sweet, moist quality.
From what I know of Madeleines they are a simple delight with a slightly complicated method; complicated in that texture is everything and over-working of the batter produces unacceptable results. I wanted to make them because I believe that perfectly light Madeleines are a sign of a good pastry chef; the principles of simplicity and perfection combined. I get the feeling they should not be overlooked nor underestimated.
The recipe involved the usual suspects; flour, eggs, butter, sugar, lemon zest and the method involved a lot of folding and dribbling. I am not good at folding, I become anxious that I am folding too much or too little and as a result I usually overwork the batter and destroy any precious air bubbles. I wish I could have the same self-assurance in folding as I do when bringing pastry together, I suppose this instinct only comes with experience and should, one day, be in the same ‘muscle memory’ bank as tying my laces. It took a long time to gradually fold in the flour. The batter was deep yellow, sticky and required chilling for a couple of hours before being spooned into the molds. On the subject of molds YES I purchased a single-function Madeleine mold and YES it made me feel fancy.
The best thing about making them was the cooking time and process. I cannot understand ovens that do not have a glass window and a light; when baking anything I spend most of the cooking time peering in and marvelling at the magic taking place. Madeleines take 8-9 minutes to cook so I witnessed every second; the uneven spoonful’s of batter filled out the shell shape in the baking tray so quickly and so beautifully.
I ate the first one when it was too hot to hold. Butter was my first thought, then a sweet, almost eggy, custard taste tinged with lemon. It was warm and left butter on my lips.
I’ll be critical and say that the texture was denser than I was expecting but then, having never eaten a Madeleine, I had no bar to measure against (this will have to be fixed in the name of research). To compensate for my textural inadequacies I did what every novice does and covered it in chocolate. They looked very pretty, even if white chocolate and sweet cake did tip them over the edge into, quite simply, ‘too much’.
I am not finished with Madeleines.