Ever since I had to write a book report on Marcel Proust’s novel ‘In Remembrance of Things Past’ in high school, I’ve been intrigued by this shell shaped delicacy. In the novel narrator dips ‘petites madeleines’ in a teacup and as soon as the warm liquid with crumbs in it touches his palette, he is transported in time to his childhood. In the literature this became known as “the Proustian moment”.
And Proust is not the only one who was inspired by this pastry. Its origin has many different interesting versions. One of my favorite features the king of Poland – Leszczynski. Apparently, a pastry cook in charge of the kitchen lost his temper and handed in his apron. A young apprentice took his place and managed to impress the king with shell shaped buttery delight. When he asked who made the cake, he learned that servant’s Christian name was Madeleine- and the cake was named after him by the royal command.
Over the years I have sampled many different versions, but it wasn’t until I tasted them in Lea Linster’s pastry shop, that I was hooked. A Michelin star chef, who is also the only female chef to this day to win the Bocuse d’Or award, she brought them to a whole other level.
I bought her book and followed the recipe to the letter. The result did not fail! Over the time, I came to a few discoveries of my own: first, if you age the egg whites, the cake will result with an incredible sleek, shiny exterior and second by adding blueberries to cut the sweetness with a burst of sourness, they get better, if possible…
Follow this tweaked version of the recipe and the result will not miss…
250g butter • 250g sifted icing sugar • 250g egg whites (aged at least 3 days) • 100g ground almonds • 75g sifted flour • Baking molds for madeleines • 50g blueberries
Three days in advance separate the egg whites and cover them with cling foil.
Keep them refrigerated.
Bring to room temperature before using them.
Prepare the batter a day in advance.
Start by browning the butter in a small pan on medium heat until it has a light hazelnut odor, then remove it from the heat and pour through a fine sieve into a bowl.
Beat the icing sugar with the egg whites until smooth.
Mix in the almond powder and flour, and add them to the egg whites and sugar mixture.
Pour in the warm browned butter and mix well.
Let the batter rest overnight in the container covered with plastic wrap.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Butter the molds and dust with flour lightly.
Fill 2/3 with the batter, as they will rise a bit while baking.
Insert one blueberry in the middle of each madeleine.
Bake the madeleines for 3 mins on 200C and then lower the temperature to 180C and continue to bake for 8 minutes.
Take them out of the oven and let them cool for few minutes before transferring them on a rack. Bake only as many as you can eat, since they taste best freshly baked.
Batter will keep well refrigerated up to one week.