How to Make Perfect Madeleines

Image Used with Permission
  • unsalted clarified butter
  • eggs, at room temperature
  • granulated sugar
  • freshly grated lemon zest
  • pure vanilla extract
  • all-purpose flour, sifted
  • confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Linked inextricably with French author Marcel Proust, the madeleine is a buttery, delicate treat with a distinctive shape. Delicious cold, the madeleine is even tastier warm, and can be easily heated in a microwave, which will unleash sugary-lemon aromas.

Award-winning cookbook author Judith Choate recommends serving madeleines with after-dinner tea and coffee, or to highlight a dessert of ice cream, sorbet, or fruit. They can even become savory, by substituting the sugar and vanilla with Parmesan cheese. The following recipe is from her book, 'A Reader's Cookbook.'

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  2. Generously butter the madeleine molds with clarified butter.
  3. Place the eggs, granulated sugar, and lemon zest in the bowl of a standing electric mixer. Place the bowl in hot (not boiling) water to warm up the ingredients. This will allow them to be beaten more easily so additional air is incorporated. Let stand, whisking occasionally, until very warm—about five minutes.
  4. When warm, place the bowl in the mixer stand fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low for a minute or so and then raise the speed to high and beat until the mixture is light, fluffy, and tripled in volume.
  5. Add the vanilla and beat to mix.
  6. Gently fold in the flour, followed by the clarified butter, taking care not to beat or the batter will fall.
  7. Transfer the batter to a large pastry bag fitted with the large, plain round tip. Carefully pipe the batter into the prepared molds, filling about two-thirds full.
  8. Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cakes are lightly colored on the top and have a hint of brown around the edges.
  9. Immediately remove from the oven, turn the pans upside down, and gently tap the little cakes out onto wire racks to cool.
  10. Remove any crumbs from the molds, butter them again, refill with batter, and bake and cool as above.
  11. If desired, when the cakes are cool, lightly dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Recipe and restaurant consultant Judith Choate is a three-time James Beard award winner (for two cookbooks that she co-wrote: ‘The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine’ and ‘The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts’). Her collaborators include chocolatier Jacques Torres, and other celebrated chef-restaurateurs including Charlie Trotter, David Burke, and Charlie Palmer. Her solo titles include "The Great American Pie Book,’ and ‘The Best Little Book of Preserves & Pickles.’ Choate and her husband live in New York City.