I’m not sure there exists another baked good that incites the same kind of pavlovian reaction as the Madeleine. If a Madeleine recipe does not in some way, shape or form pay homage to Proust then, I ask, is it even a Madeleine recipe? This one, I’m afraid, is no exception.
If you don’t know what I’m prattling about, congratulations–you have saved valuable brain space by not delving into the Madeleine-Proust connection. You may have also saved valuable shelf space, free of the sheer weight and size of the seven volumes of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. Do you know how I lose most of my time? Reading about Proust and his damn Madeleines.
Let me save you some. Marcel Proust, 20th century novelist, essayist and critic, writes in volume one (Swann’s Way) of In Search of Lost Time about an episode that has yielded phrases such as “the incident of the Madeleine”, the “Madeleine effect” and a “Proustian Madeleine”, as in “what is your Proustian Madeleine?” aka the worst pick up line ever. In a nutshell–or I guess, seashell–the narrator experiences the sudden and involuntarily recall of a childhood memory upon tasting a Madeleine dunked into his tea.
The confection he writes of–a palm sized, seashell shaped cookie (though it is cake-like in texture)–has a famous signifier of its own: a trademark hump. As there is traditionally no chemical leavening in a Madeleine, the recipe relies solely on the eggs and a slightly unusual resting time to achieve its signature protrusion.
While I know very well that Proust’s madeleines were not drenched in a blood orange glaze, they would have probably had some citrus (either lemon or lime) so I feel as though I’m not deviating too blasphemously. Plus this glaze is really, really good. Who knows what kind of memories these ones would have dredged up.
Madeleines w/ Blood Orange Glaze
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 1 stick + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon blood orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon blood orange zest
- pinch of salt
Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs, sugar and 1 cup of flour in a large bowl until fully combined. Leave mixture to rest for 10 minutes.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a saucepan until it is almost boiling, lightly brown and fragrant. Turn off heat and transfer 1 1/2 tablespoons of the melted butter to a small bowl. Set the remaining butter aside to cool.
Add 1 tablespoon of flour to the small bowl of transferred butter and combine to form a paste. Use a pastry brush to coat Madeleine molds with the butter and flour.
Add the vanilla, blood orange juice, blood orange zest and salt to the cooling butter. Stir to combine. Add this mixture to the resting batter and mix together until everything is fully incorporated. Leave this batter to rest for at least an hour, or several hours in the refrigerator. (The resting time is crucial to achieve the signature “humps” on the cookies).
Preheat oven to 375°. Divide the batter into the Madeleine molds (I used 1 tablespoon of batter per cup for regular Madeleine molds and 1 teaspoon batter per cup for mini Madeleine molds). Bake until the Madeleines are lightly browned, humped in the middle, and springy to the touch (I baked the large Madeleines for about 13 minutes and the small for about 9 minutes). Unmold cookies and let cool on a rack.
Recipe adapted from Julia Child’s Les Madeleines de Commercy.
Blood Orange-Cardamom Glaze
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tablespoon blood orange juice
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
Whisk together powdered sugar, blood orange and lemon juice, and ground cardamom in small deep bowl or ramekin. Once Madeleines are mostly cooled, dip each Madeleine halfway into the glaze. Set on rack for glaze to cool. Repeat if you want a more opaque glaze.
Cardamom-Powdered Sugar Variation
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Combine and use a small sieve to lightly dust mixture over Madeleines.