Proust’s Favourite Little Cakes – Madeleines

Blueberry Madeleines
Who can resist madeleines, warm from the oven!

Proust’s Favourite Little Cakes – Madeleines

Like Proust, The Daught loves madeleines. These little temptresses seem to be shrouded in mystery as to who, where and when they were first made.  Could it have been Madeleine Paulmier, possibly a cook in the 18th century for Stanislaus I, Duke of Lorraine, or perhaps a cook named Madeleine who is said to have offered little cakes in the shape of a shell to the pilgrims passing through Lorraine? Whoever it was, well done to them; at Chez BB, we adore them!

Perhaps the recipe isn’t for the faint-hearted, but be bold, be brave and give them a go. If they go wrong (it has happened to me, so you’re in good company), douse them in plenty of sweet sherry, and turn them into a trifle or just top the boozy morsels with soft fruits, ice cream and/or cream. I never waste a cake unless it’s cinder black (yes, I admit I am guilty of doing an impression of Alfred!).  

You don’t need a special tin, use a muffin or bun tin; your wee cakes won’t have the pretty shell pattern, but they will taste just as good.

I’ve added blueberries to this batch, but you don’t have too. Replace the fruit with two teaspoons of either vanilla, orange extract, grated lemon or orange flower water.

Proust’s Favourite Little Cakes – Madeleines

What you need

2 large eggs at room temperature
75g/3oz caster sugar
75g/3oz unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for the tin
100g/4oz plain flour
1/2 tspn bicarbonate soda

Beat the eggs with the sugar (if you don’t have a stand mixer, use a handheld electric whisk) until doubled in volume and thick enough to leave a ribbon trail.  

Grease your tins with melted butter.

Grease your tin
Madeleine tray, greased and ready for the batter

Sift flour and bicarb together and sift again into the fluffy egg mix. Fold very gently, making sure all the flour has been incorporated (if you aren’t using blueberries add your alternative flavouring). Follow this with the melted butter, again, be gentle as you fold it through.
Leave to stand for about 10 minutes.

Adding the batter
Dolloping in the batter!

Spoon mixture into your greased tin. For muffin tin fill to about 1/3; if using a madeleine tray, a teaspoon of mixture is about right. If you have any mix leftover, it will keep happily in the fridge for 24hours.

Blueberry nipples!

If using blueberries, push one into the batter, making sure it is covered.
Pop into the centre of a pre-heated oven, 220oC/Fan 200oC/425oF/Gas7 for 8 minutes.

Proust's Favourite Little Cakes
Scorched edges are good!

They should be well risen and if the edges are scorched, so much the better!
Leave in tin for a few minutes and then gently tease them onto a cooling rack.

Who can resist madeleines, warm from the oven!
Teasing the teasers from their tin!

Unlike Proust, I like them with coffee or hot chocolate instead of tea, but I imagine they would be perfect with a cup of Earl Grey.

‘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.’

Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

© Lea Harris, In the Kitchen with BakersBunny, 2018.


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