Traditional French Madeleine

Browned Butter Madeleines

Madeleines are a tender, light cakey cookie with crisp browned edges. These classic French ‘cookies’ are the perfect treat for teatime or a make-ahead dessert that is baked immediately before serving when guests arrive.

Browned Butter Madeleines

I was never quite sure what a madeleine was. I have seen them for years, described as a cookie. But they look more like a cake. So which is it? Which class do they fall under? Where do they belong??

If you had a bakery, would you plate them up next to the rest of the cookies, neighbors with the macarons and the shortbread (my favorite)?

Or would they take a spot among the cakes, with their tender, sponge middles that are undeniably cake-like?

Oh, Madeleine, WHAT ARE YOU?

This French treat with an identity crisis never made it on to my ‘must bake’ list because, to be honest, I just didn’t know if I would like them and if they were worth the trouble.

Madeleines Identity

Well, let me tell you…these madeleines know EXACTLY what they are.

They are tender cakey centers with a crisp rim. They are shaped like a shell and they MUST have a hump on the backside to fit into the category of technically correct.

Madeleines can wear many disguises. I have seen them with whole berries shoved in the center and spices galore in an attempt at individuality.

But madeleines are delicate. They are tender. There should have a crisp edge that perfectly contrasts with the soft centers that almost melt.

Madeleines are traditional.

My own version of Madeleines

When I appeared on The Great American Baking Show, the fourth episode was Dessert Week. This meant that the judges could throw whatever they wanted at us, to be honest.

The Showstopper was a 3-tier Cheesecake Tower. I thought that this would be one of my least favorite challenges but I so enjoyed the process of making a metric ton of cheesecake and then stacking it all so that Paul had a chance of cutting it for the judges to taste it. (I really wish the footage of Paul attempting to cut all of those cheesecakes without toppling the towers could be released. He was not pleased. But it was a bit fun to watch :). Sorry, Paul!)

Our Technical for Dessert Week was the Queen of Puddings.

No, really, that is the name of the dessert…Queen of Puddings.

Not my favorite but I did make a version of it at home after returning from the UK just to see if a little advance knowledge of techniques would win me over.

Nope.

Queen of Puddings will never be a favorite for me. Although the Rhubarb Strawberry Jam that I made at home was worth the trouble of baking it.

The Signature Challenge was, of course, Madeleines. Since this was our ‘signature’ bake, I decided that I should put my spin on these dainty little cake/cookies.

We were required to use the Genoise method to make our madeleines and we were required to make two batches (I assume to prove that we didn’t just get lucky if one turned out. We had to do it twice!). But our two batches had to be distinctly different flavors.

My first flavor combo was me in a little shell-shaped cookie. Strawberry Black Pepper. A little bit sweet with a spicy bite at the end…and since I tend to be more spicy than sweet, I wanted the black pepper to be noticeable, not just a background flavor. (Don’t tell my husband that I admitted to this character trait. I will deny it.)

Of course, true to form, my second flavor was Chai with white chocolate. Even more spice. My signature, I guess you could say!

But are they Madeleines, really??

I was happy with my flavors. I was happy with my batter when I made it in the tent. I was not completely happy with the short amount of time that we had to chill the batter but that is what makes it a challenge, right?

As I mentioned before, a traditional madeleine MUST have a hump on the underside (the top when they are still in the pan). In order to get this hump, you need to chill the batter. I prefer at least 3 or 4 hours in the refrigerator. In my experience, this has given me a consistent hump.

Traditional French Madeleines

I tried numerous methods during recipe development – chilling the batter in a bowl, in a piping bag, in the molds themselves, freezing the pans, fridge, etc. There wasn’t much difference other than the batter MUST be chilled. Period.

Madeleines are the perfect make ahead dessert

The great thing that I have truly come to appreciate about Madeleines is that the batter can be made and kept in the refrigerator until you are just about ready to serve them. Madeleines are best fresh from the oven.

This means that they are perfect for guests at a dinner party when you have a thousand other things to do. Make this batter the day before your event, tuck it into the fridge and bake them off when you are ready. They bake in minutes, cool quickly and are divine when just slightly warm.

But in the Tent, time is a luxury that we were not afforded (again, the definition of a baking challenge!). I chilled the batter as long as possible then filled my pans and baked. Actually, let’s be accurate here – I OVERFILLED my pans.

Madeleines only need about a tablespoon of batter in each mold. The batter will spread and then rise but shouldn’t spill out of each molded shell.

But the judges never even mentioned the fact that my madeleines were too big. What they did mention was that they expected traditional, delicate madeleines.

And I smacked them in the face with my ‘signature spiciness’. Ouch. Lesson learned. The hard way but sometimes that is just what works.

So I took the judges critiques and I made more Madeleines. But first I researched them. I read every recipe that I could find by all of the best pastry chefs…especially the French ones.

So here is the result of that. The combined judges’ comments, the research, the practice. I have put it all together into what I believe is the perfect Madeleine.

I will tell you, the only ‘bad’ thing about Madeleines is that you must have the correct pans. You could probably bake this batter in some other tin but it will not be a Madeleine. The pans are not expensive, though, and they are readily available all over the internet.

Give these a try. You won’t be sorry!

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Browned Butter Madeleines

Recipe by Tanya Ott
Servings

12

servings
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking time

10

minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted, for brushing pans

  • Flour for dusting pans

  • 140 grams (10 Tablespoons) browned butter, cooled

  • 2 eggs, at room temperature

  • 135 grams granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Pinch of salt

  • 125 grams all purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

Directions

  • First, brown your butter. If you have not done this before, read all about it HERE.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs and sugar until pale and you get to ribbon stage.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl with egg mixture. Fold in the flour gently until just combined.
  • Pour the cooled browned butter into the bowl around the edges of the bowl and fold in gently.
  • Cover and refrigerate the batter AND the pans at least 2 hours or up to two days. This batter MUST be chilled in order to get the classic “hump” of a Madeleine, the traditional mark of this classic French cookie.
  • Preheat oven to 350F/176C.
  • Melt the additional butter and allow to cool slightly. Brush the butter into each of the molds in the madeleine pan. Lightly sift flour over the butter, ensuring an even coating.
  • Spoon 1 tbsp (15 ml) of the batter into the center of each mold. Do not attempt to spread the batter – just leave it in the shape that comes off the spoon. It will spread out by itself.
  • Bake 8 to 12 minutes until golden brown, especially around the edges. A ‘hump’ should have appeared on each madeleine. Allow to cool slightly and then remove from the mold and allow to cool.
  • Once cooled completely, dust with powdered sugar and serve.
    These are best eaten the day they are made. Batter can be made 2 days ahead of time.
Recipe for browned butter madeleines

2 Comments

  1. Loved this post, Tanya! I think I need to “tweak” my recipes so I can share them on the blog – I liked the flavor but I might change the presentation a bit.

    yours are just perfect, and brown butter makes them even more special in my mind

    (your spicy secret is safe with me, I won’t mention to your beloved husband. Evah!)

    • Haha! Thanks for keepong my secret!
      I may go back and revisit the original flavor combos and share them but I thought it was important to get the basic recipe down first!

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