In Search Of The Perfect Madeliene


Last February, foot surgery kept me housebound for several weeks. As I’m used to always being on the go, this was NOT fun! During this time, I became obsessed, truly, totally obsessed, with learning to make Madelienes.

What is a Madeliene (besides a little Parisian girl…”In an old house in Paris all covered with vines lived 12 little girls in two straight lines”)? A French tradition, a Madeleine is a small, very light sponge cake baked in the shape of a shell. The Marcel ProustMadeliene is most famous for the starring role it plays in “Swann’s Way”‘ the first volume in Marcel Proust’s seven volume novel “In Search Of Lost Time.” Early in the first novel, the narrator eats a bite of Madeline dipped in tea (a very common afternoon snack in France to this day). The taste and smell of the Madeline sends his mind tumbling back to his childhood in Combray. This recollection releases a long (VERY long) train of images, recollections and stories of his life many years past that make up “In Search Of Lost Time.”  If you have’t read “Swann’s Way”, I encourage you to give it a try. It can be a bit of a slog at first, but you soon find yourself drawn into it. The cadence seduces. In reading it, I was happy to discover that Proust could actually be quite funny in a droll way. I often found myself laughing out loud at his wit. Last summer, I made it halfway through the second volume, “In a Budding Grove.” I am going to go back to reading it in France this August.

To make Madelienes, you will need a Madeleine pan (or two). I purchased two nonstick Chicago Metallics pans from Amazon for $11.39 each and they are FANTASTIC. There are many variations of Madeleine recipes, some with lemon and some without (I prefer with).  You will find my recipe at the end of this post.  Once you have the pans, Madeleines are quick and easy to bake. In no time, you will be baking perfect Madeleines, and you will understand why they are so beloved in France.

Bon appétit, mes amis!


The Perfect French Madeleine

1 c flour
2/3 c sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 Tbsp lemon zest, grated
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 pinch salt
1/2 c butter (1 stick), melted
butter spray
confectioners’ sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and baking powder.

In a medium bowl, whisk together salt, eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla until mixture is frothy.

 Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir until combined.

Add melted butter. Stir until combined and batter is smooth. Do not over stir.

Cover batter bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to overnight.

Spray pan(s) with butter spray. Place in freezer for at least one hour. Note: if you do not have a nonstick Madeleine pan, melt 3 tbs butter, whisk in 1 tbs flour and brush the molds with the mixture.

Preheat oven to 350. Remove the pan(s) one at a time from the freezer. Fill each mold with teaspoonful of batter. Place Madeleine pan(s) on a baking sheet for easier handling. Bake for 8 minutes. Rotate pan(s) and bake approximately five minutes longer depending on your oven. Madeleines should be nicely browned around the edges and springy to the touch.

Remove Madeleines from oven and let rest for two minutes. Using a fork if necessary, gently slide the Madeleines from the pan and let them cool on a clean dish towel. If using pan for another batch, respray with butter spray and place back in freezer for one hour. Sprinkle Madeleines with confectioners sugar before serving.

Madeleines are best eaten the day of baking or within 24 hours at the most. They can be frozen for up to two months. Double wrap in plastic wrap. Wait to sprinkle with confectioners sugar until thawed.

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