French madeleines. The name of these soft cookies evokes magical things. The simple taste of butter and sugar, French landscapes, and sweet childhood memories. But what is the real story of these cookies, originally shaped like seashells?
Well, I have to admit that I don’t have a real story. But I have a legend, which is much better!
We have to go back to 1755, in the castle of King Stanislas Leszczynksi, in Alsace-Lorraine. One evening, the King had organized a great dinner with Voltaire and other friends. But the cook had fallen ill, and the long-awaited dessert hadn’t been prepared yet.
A very proactive butler had the idea of asking to a young maid of the castle to cook something to solve the problem. So, she baked the cookies her grandmother used to make for her when she was a child in Commency.
The King and the guests were so enthusiastic about the cookies, that they asked the girl their name. But since they didn’t have one, the King gave them the name of the maid: Madeleine de Commency.
With the building of the railway line Paris-Strasbourg in 1852, the madeleines became famous all over the country. Every traveler who arrived at the Commency station was overwhelmed by the smell of these cookies, sold in graceful wooden boxes. And he bought them.
With the famous passage Proust wrote in Swann’s Way about the power of the madeleines to evoke things of the past, these cookies became iconic:
She sent for one of those squat, plump little cakes called “petites madeleines,” which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted valve of a scallop shell. And soon, mechanically, dispirited after a dreary day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin.
What I like about French madeleines, apart from their flavor, is their original seashell shape. So, I suggest buying a madeleine pan. It’s not only a matter of style, since the pan is important for the perfect rising of the cookies. Buy one, it’s cheap, and I assure you will use it a thousand times.
Why? Because madeleines are fantastic and very easy to make. With this recipe, you won’t have to buy them ever again: cooking them will be a vital pleasure!
This time, I have decided to flavor them with chocolate chips, but they are so versatile, that you can use whatever you like to give them your personal touch.
Orange zest, cinnamon, blueberries, vanilla…use your creativity to bake these little remembrances of things past.
French Madeleines With Chocolate Chips
130 gr. caster sugar
2 tbsp. honey
¼ tsp. sea salt
3 big eggs
150 gr. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
125 gr. butter at room temperature
1 tsp. lemon zest
50 gr. chocolate chips
LET’S DO IT!
In a large pan, whip sugar, honey, salt and the eggs until you obtain a fluffy mixture. Then add the flour and the baking powder, well sifted.
Add the butter in small pieces and mix gently until it is completely melted in the mixture of eggs, sugar and flour. In the end, flavor with lemon zest and the chocolate chips. Let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
Grease the madeleines mold with some butter and sprinkle it with flour. Put 1 tbsp. of mixture in each shape and bake for 12 minutes, or until the cookies are browned on the margins and have a nice bump in the center.
Serve them warm, with some caster sugar on top.