RECIPE: Master the madeleine

Combining herbs and vanilla results in a beautifully scented, buttery madeleine.
Courtesy of Marie Restaino

Combined ShapeCaption
Combining herbs and vanilla results in a beautifully scented, buttery madeleine. Courtesy of Marie Restaino

Classic French tea cake is easy to make at home

There are a few classics a serious baker must absolutely master. For the serious Francophile baker — or the baker with a literary interest — the list of classics most certainly includes a madeleine.

Famous for being a cookie of the extremely well-read (I am convinced that only literature professors have actually read Marcel Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time”), the madeleine involuntarily transports Proust’s narrator back to an essential, emotional memory.

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Those of us who have seen the Pixar film Ratatouille” get the gist: It’s what happens to the grumpy food critic when he tastes the peasant food of his youth.

Literature or not, the madeleine is a great cookie. Inexpensive madeleine pans are easy to find, and with one, you can learn to master the signature bump that separates the pretenders from the serious madeleines. I like combining herbs and vanilla to give the cookie a delicate depth, worthy of Proust himself.

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Sage-Scented Vanilla Bean Madeleines
  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (6 grams) baking powder
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (125 grams) sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon finely diced fresh sage
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons (15 grams) honey
  • 1/3 cup (80 grams) milk, slightly warmed in microwave 10 seconds
  • 11 tablespoons (151 grams) melted unsalted butter, divided
  • Special equipment: madeleine pan
  • In a small bowl, combine flour and baking powder and set aside.
  • In a separate small bowl, combine sugar, lemon zest, sage and vanilla bean. Rub the mixture with your fingers until sugar is fragrant. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk eggs and honey until combined. Whisking continuously, add sugar mixture to eggs and honey until smooth.
  • Add warm milk to eggs, honey and sugar. Whisk to combine. Gradually add flour and baking soda, whisking continuously until mixture is smooth and free of lumps. Add 8 tablespoons melted butter and whisk until the batter is smooth and shiny and no pools of melted butter remain.
  • Cover with plastic and refrigerate 1 hour. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Brush madeleine pan with the remaining 3 tablespoons melted butter, coating each cavity of the pan evenly. Dust the entire pan with flour and knock off excess so the pan is lightly and evenly dusted.
  • Fill each madeleine cavity with 1 tablespoon batter, until it is 2/3 full. Freeze, uncovered, 20 minutes, until batter is just firm to the touch.
  • Bake cookies 10 to 12 minutes, until a small golden brown bump forms on each madeliene. Unmold cookies as soon as they come out of the oven. Let cool on a wire rack. Makes 24 cookies.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per cookie: 121 calories (percent of calories from fat, 42), 2 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, trace fiber, 6 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 30 milligrams cholesterol, 31 milligrams sodium.

Chris Wilkins has been a professional baker for 12 years. He is a two-time James Beard Award nominee and the founder and co-owner of Root Baking Co. and Pizza Jeans. Submit your baking questions to bakebetterajc@gmail.com.

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