European cookies are made from the same basic ingredients as North American cookies, but are often more polished in appearance. Madeleine cookies are a prime example, with their delicate seashell shapes. The distinctive shallow pan gives them thin, crisp edges that contrast beautifully with their soft interiors. They require a modicum of skill, but anyone who can bake a sponge cake can also make madeleines.
Mixing the Batter
Madeleine batter is a simplified version of genoise batter, a common European variation on sponge cake. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in one bowl, and combine the eggs and sugar in another. Melt the butter in the microwave, or a small saucepan on your stovetop, and keep it warm. Beat the eggs and sugar for several minutes until they’re light and frothy, then add the vanilla and lemon zest that flavor a classic madeleine. Fold the flour gently into the frothy eggs, one third at a time, taking care not to deflate the foam any more than necessary. Finally, fold the melted butter into the batter. It’s easiest to mix part of the batter into the butter, then pour it back into your main mixing bowl. Refrigerate the batter overnight, or for at least two to three hours.
Baking the Madelines
You’ll need two madeleine pans for most recipes. If you don’t have them you can use tartlet or mini muffin pans, though you’ll lose the thin, crisp edges. A “muffin tops” pan is the best substitute, if you have it. Butter the indentations in your pan and then flour them, and then chill the pan for 10 to 15 minutes. Spoon a tablespoon of batter into each spot on the pan, and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 12 minutes. The madeleines should be golden-brown at the edges, pale and gently humped in the middle.