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Madeleines for Sophie

November 29, 2007 | 11:10 am

Madeleineslachman My daughter Sophie, who is 6 1/2, adores madeleines. (More than pasta or chocolate or even duck confit.) And so last weekend, when she told me that I hadn't made her madeleines for "two whole years," I had a slight panic attack. Store-bought madeleines are not -- all tired Proust references aside -- what I wanted her to remember from childhood. And since she also loves to bake, it was time to get out the madeleine tins. Below right is Soph filling the tins, which I have in two sizes.

Sophiemadelines_4   My favorite recipe for the little baked cakes is Alain Giraud's, published here last year as part of our cookie contest. (He came in second, behind Sherry Yard, with his tiny almond-orange madeleines.) But Sophie prefers Paula Wolfert's recipe, from her book "The Cooking of South-West France." Russ Parsons included the recipe in a 2005 profile of Wolfert. (Click on "Read more 'Madeleines for Sophie' " to find it.) For the record, it had not been two years since I baked them for her. Wolfert makes her madeleines with orange flower water and clarified butter. (Easy to make, clarified butter keeps for ages in the refrigerator for moments of crisis like this one.) They're light, floral -- and totally addictive. After eating the first half-dozen, Soph even shared the rest with her sister, who ate hers with (yes), a cup of tea.

This blank space ________________ is for your Proust joke.

"The Cooking of South-West France," by Paula Wolfert (Wiley, 2005).

-- Amy Scattergood

Photos by Robert Lachman (madeleines on plate) and Amy Scattergood


Total time: 40 minutes, plus overnight chilling

Servings: 18 3-inch cakes or 24 2-inch cakes

Note: From Paula Wolfert's "The Cooking of South-West France." She recommends using Plugra butter, which does not need to be clarified.

2 large eggs

Pinch of salt

5 1/2 tablespoons superfine sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons orange flower water

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

5 1/2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour plus 5 1/2 tablespoons cake flour, combined and sifted twice

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

5 tablespoons clarified butter, melted and cooled

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon softened unsalted butter

1. One day in advance, using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, combine the eggs, salt and sugar. Beat until thick and light, about 6 to 7 minutes. Add the orange flower water and vanilla; whisk to combine.

2. Sift the flours with the baking powder. Gradually stir into the egg mixture; do not overbeat. Add the butter and the cream. Stir gently until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

3. The next day, heat the oven to 425 degrees. Brush the hollows of a madeleine pan with softened butter. Use a teaspoon and a small spatula to fill each hollow about two-thirds full. Tap the mold on the table to allow batter to settle. (It is not necessary to smooth the surface or fill the bottom of each hollow.)

4. Bake for 5 minutes on the upper middle oven rack. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake 6 to 10 minutes longer.

5. When the madeleines are golden and just turning brown around the edges, remove from the oven. Use the tip of a knife at the base of each to loosen; turn out onto wire racks to cool. Serve warm with fruit compotes, sorbets and granitas. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight tin and heated gently before serving.

Each serving: 84 calories; 1 gram protein; 8 grams carbohydrates; 0 grams fiber; 5 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 37 mg. cholesterol; 37 mg. sodium.