French madeleines

Spring really is peeking round the corner with the bulbs coming up on the patio, the daffodils and snowdrops in St James’s Park and the nights getting a bit brighter. My in-laws are visiting this weekend, which always means good food and drink, and I thought I’d contribute with a new favourite recipe.

Madeleines and a tea

French madeleines

Of course I’d heard about Proust’s famous encounter with madeleines in his In Search of Lost Time (a series on my reading list for years now though I’m no closer to actually starting!), but I’d never eaten one and hadn’t the faintest idea how to bake them. But I was inspired to try after I saw Michel Roux Jr. cook them for Mary Berry on television. I found this recipe on the BBC Good Food site and think it’s almost fool proof.

Madeleines are small, light sponge cakes with a shell pattern on one side due to the tray you cook them in. They come from the Lorraine region in northeastern France, and they’re perfect for a light treat when you don’t want to go overboard on sweets.

You will need a madeleine tray if you want to achieve the shell pattern, but they’re not too expensive. I bought mine on Amazon.

Ingredients

2 eggs, beaten

100g caster sugar

100g plain flour, plus extra for dusting the pan

1 lemon, zest and juice

¾ tsp baking powder

100g butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for greasing the pan

Whisk together the eggs and sugar till frothy. Lightly whisk in the rest of the ingredients and then leave to stand for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Brush the tray with a little melted butter then shake in a little flour to coat, tapping out the excess.

You don’t want to overfill your tray otherwise the edges will go brown. I’ve found that using a large tablespoon is sufficient. Just scoop up a spoonful of batter and drop lightly in the middle of the depression on the tray. The batter will settle itself – you don’t need to spread it into place.

Madeleines in tray

Bake 8-10 minutes till the mixture has risen in the middle and is fully cooked through. Cool on a wire rack and then serve with tea or coffee.

Michel Roux Jr. says that these are best eaten within an hour, and he’s right. They won’t keep for days, but they’re so easy to bake that you can make them up the day you need them without too much hassle.

Hope you love them as much as I do. Enjoy!

A plate of madeleines

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