Adapted from the one given in Baked & Delicious Magazine, edition 9.
Serves 4/ Makes approx 16.
65g unsalted butter
65g caster sugar
65g plain flour
half a tbsp cornflour
half a teaspoon vanilla extract
half a teaspoon almond extract
icing sugar to sprinkle
1 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)
1. Turn the oven to 190C (170C fan ovens).
2. Carefully melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, making sure it doesn't burn. Once all melted put the saucepan to one side to cool (and cover it with a plate if it's hot sunny weather like it is here).
3. Whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract in a large bowl over a bain mairie, which is a pan of almost simmering water, until the mixture is foamy, thickened and tripled in size. You'll need to use an electric whisk unless you have incredibly strong wrists as this takes a lot of beating! Remove bowl from pan and continue beating the mixture until it has cooled.
4. Sift the flour with the cornflour. Then sift half on to the egg mixture. Fold it in with a metal spoon, lifting gently.
5. When combined, sift the rest of the flour on top and next add the melted butter, stirring gently until combined.
6. For the classic madeleines, simply spoon the mixture into a 9 cake madeleine tray, smoothing the tops before placing in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Put the bowl with the remaining mixture in a cool place covered with a lid or plate and leave for a minute.
7. You'll know the madeleines are cooked when the tops are golden and springy to touch. Let them sit in the tray for 10 minutes before gently turning them out onto a plate or wire rack.
8. Clean the madeleine tray, and wipe dry.
9. To make the next batch, I chose to create madeleines au chocolat. To do this, sift a tablespoon of cocoa powder into the remaining mixture and gently stir until well mixed in.
10. Repeat the process of spooning the mixture into the tray, and baking in the oven for 10-12 minutes, before taking out and leaving to cool as before.
11. When all the madeleines are cool, place them on a couple of plates and sieve icing sugar over the top. These little cakes taste great with a glass of cold white wine, or as an accompaniment with icecream. The chocolate ones are particularly tasty with a cup of coffee.
Madeleines were so evocative for Marcel Proust that he wrote many pages about them in A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu. Volume 1, Swann's Way, Within a Budding Grove. Here's an extract where he takes his first bite:
'...my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. 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. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I sensed that it was connected with the taste of the tea and the cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could, no, indeed, be of the same nature. Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it?'
This cake was idly baked to the sounds of Jeff Buckley's album Grace. For me a Proustian accompaniment, as I saw Buckley live in the 90s at Reading Festival and he was absolutely incredible.