I made these Orange Hazelnut Madeleines for Easter this year. Madeleines are a delicate and lightly sweet mini cake (often called cookies) baked in a scallop shaped metal tray. They are ubiquitous to France and eaten almost every day: hot off the press with coffee during a morning visit to the market or later for an afternoon snack. They are so perfect when you’re craving something sweet, but only want two or three bites. I don’t know about you, but that’s me pretty well every day. I dipped my madeleines with an orange glaze, but you can eat them plain. They’re nice both ways.
Madeleines: tricky or easy?
This is the first time I have ever made madeleines. My husband bought me a madeleine mold several years ago but I had actually never used it until now. I read many madeleine recipes over the years but the thought of making homemade madeleines always sounded so tricky. So, I put off baking any for ages!! Well, that was all for nought. Sure, madeleines have specific instructions but if you follow them step-by-step they’ll work out beautifully. Promise!
I made mine with browned butter. The instructions and photos for browned butter are in the recipe for Brown Butter Finnish Cookies. The flavour of browned butter goes well with these Orange Hazelnut Madeleines.
Refrigerator cold Madeleine batter in frozen tray, all ready to go in the oven.
Soft, delicate and set madeleines just baked. The scent is divine!
Madeleines have a lovely soft crumb. Here they are dipped in orange glaze and ready to serve.
As I mentioned last year in my post on Easter Mini Simnel Cakes, my family has no favourite Easter dessert. Anything goes really, as our family has never had a traditional Easter sweet. I was thinking about what to make this year – something Scandinavian with cardamom? or Italian Pastiera di Grano? Just before Easter, our family was keeping up on the news about the fire at Notre Dame and reading about it’s lengthy history. I have very vivid memories of visiting Paris and Notre Dame Cathedral many years ago. It was hard not to reminisce about France. I don’t know about you, but a lot of my travel memories focus on food, so with France in our thoughts, I decided to bake french Orange Hazelnut Madeleines.
History of Madeleines
Madeleines have been a popular cookie/cake in France since the 17th century and are synonymous with France, much like the Notre Dame Cathedral. There are many versions on the creation of madeleines. One popular story is that a young girl named Madeleine baked some cakes using her grandmother’s recipe, for the deposed and exiled King of Poland, Stanislas Leszczynska when he was living in Lorraine, France. He named them Madeleines and gave some to his daughter, Marie, who was married to Louis XV. She introduced them to the French court and before you knew it, everyone wanted them. There are other legends as well, but I like that one best.
Regardless of who invented the original recipe, there is one person that made them popular for eternity: Marcel Proust. He wrote in his autobiographical novel ‘La Recherche du Temps Perdu” about eating a madeleine dipped in tea and the strong memories of his childhood that it evoked.
Here is the passage describing that event. Being a real foodie, I just love it.
She sent for one of those squat plump little cakes called “petites madeleines”, which look as though they had been molded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell...I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. 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 invaded my senses…
And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray…when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my Aunt Leonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane…and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and garden alike, from my cup of tea.
Enjoying a madeleine with a hot cup of coffee is perfect for rekindling cherished memories.
If you have been to France, maybe these petit madeleines will evoke a special memory of your visit. If you haven’t visited, I hope they will inspire you to go.
Brown Butter Orange Hazelnut Madeleines
- For the batter:
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 130 grams white sugar
- 1/3 tsp salt
- 175 grams flour
- zest of 1 orange
- 120 grams browned butter (see above for link to instructions)
- 2 Tbsp hazelnut almond butter
- 150 grams powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp orange juice
- 2 tbsp water
Brush the madeleine molds with melted butter, then dust with flour. Place tray molds in freezer until ready to bake.
In a stand mixer, mix eggs, sugar and salt for about 7-8 minutes until frothy and thickened. Don't stop too early, this mixing will assist with the rising.
Sift flour into mixture while folding in with spatula.
Warm nut butter in microwave (30 seconds or so on high).
Add warmed nut butter and orange zest to browned butter, stir to incorporate.
Slowly pour the butter mixture into the batter and fold in gently. You don't want to deflate the batter.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1-3 hours. I did 3 hours, but I have also read to refrigerate overnight. Three hours worked fine for me.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Put about 1 dessert spoon of batter into each indentation of the madeleine mold. It should fill it about 3/4 full. But don't spread it. Just scrape it in off the spoon.
Bake for about 9-10 minutes. You don't want to over cook them. They should feel just set, not too dry or too firm.
To make the glaze, mix together orange juice, sugar and water.
Take the cakes out of the oven and place the tray on a rack. As soon as they are cool enough to touch, slide them out onto a rack.
When the madeleines are still warm, but not hot, dip each side in the glaze. If you have too much, scrap off the extra glaze and then place on a rack scalloped side up. I think you could also brush the glaze on with a brush.
Most recipes say that they taste best the day they are made. I kept some on my counter for a few days, and they were still tasty. But they won't last longer than that. They're too good.
adapted from the Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz