Madeleines à l’ancienne

Written by: Chowy (hence the stark contrast in writing quality)
Adapted from:
Photos By: Val

The madeleine is an extraordinary creation. Oval and distinct with its shell-shaped base, it’s a tiny bundle of simple goodness – crisp and moist, buttery and light all at once when done well. It perhaps is best thought of as a glorified butter cake made famous by its Proustian connection and similar to the financier. A quick search on Wikipedia provides the following description. The madeleine, or petite madeleine is “a traditional small cake from Commercy, a commune of the Meusedépartement in northeastern France”. It doesn’t require much ingredients apart from the basics – flour, eggs, butter, sugar and some lemon zest, making it a simple treat to whip up at home, guaranteed to be well-received fresh out of the oven. If madeleine moulds are difficult to find, shallow bun pans/muffin trays should do the trick too.

In our case, energised by the thought of recreating the delicious tea-time treat, as well as by the recollection that I had indeed acquired a set of madeleine moulds in a recent trip to Japan, I convinced Val it was worth a shot. After some research online, we went with a recipe from – a French food website. As a side point, recipes on the madeleine abound on the internet, varying both in flavours (e.g. chocolate, vanilla, fruit flavoured ones – you name it the net has it!) and the basic ingredients (e.g. some would recommend using almond meal in place of flour, but that I feel would make it more of a financier). It’s probably useful to experiment in small batches with a couple and use the one which best suits your tastebuds.
Most unfortunately, our attempt turned out to be somewhat dismal, as the batter stubbornly refused to rise in the oven. Alas, that heavenly aroma of lemony-butter couldn’t conceal the dense texture of the madeleines, which made it at times barely chewy. I later discovered the fatal flaw, due embarrassingly enough, to my dismal French – causing me to misread ‘baking powder’ (levure chimique) for ‘yeast’ (levure). Which would explain why subsequent batches turned out slightly better after allowing more time for the yeast to interact with the batter. Yes – “oh dear + snigger” cry les Francophiles.
Nonetheless aside from the failed French translation, a la Proust, when consumed with a spot of tea and served slightly toasted, the resultant product was still sufficiently addictive for a couple more to disappear within seconds of appearing. And for that spine-tingling, body shuddering brief moment of pleasure, it’s a recipe most certainly worth a shot.
Madeleines a l’ancienne (for 30 madeleines)
225g of plain flour
175g of sugar (can be reduced if less sugar is preferred)
100g melted butter
1 sachet of BAKING POWDER (1 sachet = approx. 11g)
4 eggs
1 lemon (for the rind)
pinch of salt
1) Beat the sugar and eggs together till it thickens and turns a creamy yellow
2) Sift the flour and baking powder together, before gradually adding, alternating each time, the flour and the butter + lemon zest
3) Before placing in the oven, grease and flour the madeleine pan to ensure ease of removal.
The original recipe advises the batter be left to set for about 20 minutes before cooking.
Et voila, les madeleines a l’ancienne! Bon appetit!
P.S. Do drop a line if you’ve come across any successful modifications!

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