A madeleine is a wonderful, shell-shaped sponge cake that actually looks like a cookie. It is believed to have originated in France around the 18th century, but that is the subject of much controversy, none of which matters to me. I just know that I love them. These Brown Butter Madeleines have a deep, rich vanilla flavor.
This type of sponge cake is an easy version of a genoise with fewer steps, the addition of baking powder, and a better outcome. I made LOTS of genoise in culinary school. The definition of genoise for me then was:
ge-noise / zheyn- wäz‘
1. something which causes anxiety, stress, and fear
2. a form of sponge cake that absolutely will not roll into a roulade no matter how many times you try
Example in a sentence: I practiced making genoise three times this weekend and it cracked every time I rolled it up.
The present day and more accurate meaning of genoise:
1. a sponge cake that contains butter and is leavened by stiffly beaten eggs
Example in a sentence: I am very glad I know how to make genoise because it helped me to create some lovely madeleines.
Lesson learned. Thanks, Chef.
I had never made Madeleines before, so I did a good bit of research before I tried them. A recurring theme amongst the recipes I perused was that a non-stick pan was essential. So I headed to Sur la table, my favorite cook store, and found this beautiful one. Though there are other good cookery stores here in Birmingham, Sur la table caters more to the baker than any other store. It truly makes me happy just to walk in there. You can order the pan online here if you’d like.
The required ingredients are very basic: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, room temperature eggs, vanilla, and melted butter. This butter is a darker color because I browned it. Browned butter adds a nutty, more caramel flavor, and it’s great to use in a variety of recipes. The process to make it is very easy. You can also use regular butter in this recipe if you want to. Many madeleine recipes include ingredients such as grated lemon or orange peel. This time I just wanted a simple flavor.
Here are the easy steps for browning butter:
First of all, I love Kerrygold Butter. Other brands are fine, too, such as Land O’ Lakes or a generic store brand. Unless otherwise specified in my recipes, I always use salted butter.
This recipe for Brown Butter Madeleines calls for one and a half sticks of butter. Melt in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
Allow the butter to bubble for 15-20 minutes. I have a gas stove which heats quickly and intensely, so I have to turn it down to simmer. Stir occasionally.
After 15-20 minutes, the butter will start to foam. Run a knife through the foam to see your progress. You can see that it’s now a darker color and there’s some sediment built up on the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and strain into a bowl through paper towels.
The result is this beautiful, deeply colored butter with a lovely nutty caramel taste and fragrance. Allow to sit until it is at room temperature.
Just as a point of reference, I want to show you the difference in browning and just downright burning. The one on the right was cooked too long. (said the distracted baker). If that happens, just throw it out and start over.
Note: If you want to brown butter in the future for another recipe, particularly for one that doesn’t require the butter to be melted, like a cookie recipe, you can pour it into an airtight container and chill it after you brown it. It will solidify and be ready for use when you need it. Just use the same amount you would use if it were regular butter. It is wonderful in chocolate chip cookies and especially good made into honey butter.
Now that you have your brown butter, you are ready to make the madeleines.
Beat the eggs and sugar together until doubled in volume. Add vanilla and beat on low until blended.
(Make sure your eggs are room temperature – sit them out for at least 30 minutes before you need to use them)
Gently fold the flour, baking powder, and salt into the batter, being careful not to deflate your nice fluffy egg mixture.
Pour a small amount of the batter into a separate bowl and gently fold in the butter. Blending the butter into a small amount of batter first makes it easier to then incorporate into the larger amount.
It will be stubborn. Continue to gently fold it in.
Then add to the larger egg mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour. Several hours or overnight is fine.
Once the batter is chilled, brush melted butter into each cavity of your madeleine pan, even if it is a nonstick pan like mine. I floured the pan on top of the butter for my first batch, but I don’t recommend it. A spritz of Baker’s Joy worked better for me. The flour ended up being too chalky.
I used a small scoop for the batter. This is a #40 disher and it holds approximately one and a half tablespoons. I plan to do a post about dishers and their usefulness soon.
After I scooped the batter into the cavities, I leveled them out with a small offset spatula. They will fill in more as they bake. After filling, chill the pan for an hour. This will help with the rise.
Place in a 350° oven for 9-10 minutes. The edges should be lightly browned and the tops spring to the touch.
Madeleines have a characteristic bump (belle bosse) on them when they rise correctly. I’ve seen bigger ones, but I was happy with these for my first try. Dorie Greenspan says that the characteristic dome or bump has become “the Holy Grail of Madeleine bakers.” And I didn’t even have to provide a shrubbery. (Link for Monty Python and the Holy Grail fans. If you aren’t one, it will be utter nonsense).
Flip them out of the pan onto parchment when they come out of the oven. I didn’t like using a cooling rack because it made indentations on them. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Keep in an airtight container or covered with plastic wrap until ready to serve. They dry out easily.
They are lovely and delicate with a simple vanilla flavor. I took these to a Christmas party, but they definitely aren’t just for Christmas.
They are also wonderful with a cup of tea or coffee. Or Iced Mint Tea.
I hope you will make these wonderful Brown Butter Madeleines. I plan to try madeleines with many more flavor variations, and I will share them here, of course.
- 3 large eggs (room temperature)
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ¾ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 sticks melted brown butter (instructions below)
- confectioners sugar for dusting
- Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
- With an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat eggs and sugar together until pale and doubled in volume.
- Add vanilla and mix just until blended.
- With a spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture until well blended.
- Pour a small amount of the egg mixture into a bowl and add the butter. Slowly and gently fold it in.
- Blend into the larger egg mixture.
- Cover and chill for at least an hour. Overnight is fine.
- Brush a generous amount of butter into each cavity of the madeleine pan.
- Spray with a small amount of Baker's Joy or other spray containing flour.
- Using a small scoop, fill each cavity with batter. Smooth out with an offset spatula.
- Chill for one hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Bake for 9-10 minutes, or until edges are browned and tops spring to the touch.
- Flip madeleines out onto parchment and allow to cool.
- Sprinkle with confectioners sugar.
- Keep in an airtight container until ready to serve.
- They are great the next day if microwaved for about 15 seconds.
- Melt butter in heavy saucepan over low heat.
- Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally
- The butter will begin to foam. Run a knife through the foam to see your progress.
- It will become a light caramel color with dark sediment.
- Strain through paper towels into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.