Apparently madeleines are one of those things that the non-French picture the French to be snacking on all day long. Like Camembert and snails and whatever else. However it is one of the innumerous pastries I’ve only had the inauthentic renditions of (meaning, I made it or a local bakery that doesn’t give a shit about honouring tradition did) and would pay to learn how to make properly.
I have great love for these dainty, slightly pretentious little treats. But they tend to be on the dry side once cool. So I thought, if I’m going to re-warm one later (yeah I know they’re best fresh, but it’s the second best alternative and I don’t have to heat up the entire oven again), it might as well have hot caramel sauce oozing out of it.
Not exactly what a purist would applaud, but actually when it comes to finding the best recipe I will not rest easy knowing there’s a better/more traditional recipe/method out there. I can end up looking for hours for the one I’m looking for, the one that’s more proven, that more have tried, the one created and used by pros. So when I headed to my usual trusted sources for such recipes for the real French madeleines and ended up with 3 slightly different recipes and very different methods, I was torn. Some called for the batter to be chilled before adding the butter, some after, some required one hour and some one day. Eventually I settled on what worked best faster, since I only have one pan: chill an hour before adding butter and freeze half an hour in the pan just before baking.
And of course I had to brown the butter.
Brown butter orange madeleines with caramel sauce (makes 18 medium-sized ones)
For the madeleines:
2 eggs (115g)
75g granulated sugar
zest of 1 orange
145g self-raising flour
110g unsalted butter
For the caramel:
100g granulated sugar
heaped teaspoon of butter
pinch of salt
Prepare a madeleine pan by lightly greasing (no big chunks of butter in the grooves) and flouring it.
Rub the zest and sugar together until moist and fragrant. Add to the eggs and beat until paler in colour, about 3 minutes if using an electric whisk. Gently fold in the sifted flour. Cover and chill in the fridge for an hour.
Close to the hour mark, start browning the butter. When it’s warm and not hot, drizzle into the chilled batter, folding at the same time to incorporate. Scoop the batter into the holes about what you imagine would fill 3/4 when spread out, but don’t spread it (or about 1 tbsp). If you can wait, freeze for half and hour. If not, bake in an 260C/500F oven for 5 minutes, then a further 7 minutes at 180C/350F.
For the caramel, melt sugar with water over medium-high heat in a deep pot. Occasionally brush down the sides with a wet pastry brush, or alternatively, put a lid down and let the condensation drip down the sides. In the meantime, warm up the cream until almost boiling and set aside. Once the sugar has turned golden, swirl the pot a bit to distribute the colour. When it’s amber all over, very carefully pour in the hot cream, and the butter, and stir until homogenous. Add salt to taste.
When the caramel has cooled enough to touch but not too viscous, pipe into the madeleines. Or drizzle it on. I even tried blobbing it onto the batter before baking. You can’t go wrong with caramel. Just remember to brush your teeth after smothering your whole face with it.