Marcel Proust forever immortalized the madeleine in his book “Remembrance of Things Past” and it has since penetrated pop culture references in everything from “The Simpsons” to “The Sopranos.” Even Starbucks is selling these scallop shell-shaped French cookies at the counter.
That’s enough to make even the most ambitious pastry chef cower at the thought of attempting to recreate these delicate mouthfuls.
But it’s not as hard as it looks. I bought a no-stick madeleine pan at the Williams-Sonoma and stared at it for a few hours, revelling in its beauty.
I finally worked up the nerve, telling myself that if I was to spend $34 on what was really just a pretentious cookie pan, I should get something out of it.
Here’s the recipe I used for coconut madeleines from the glorious, fantastic, indulgent cookbook “Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth” by Jill O’Connor.
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
3/4 cup of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
Directions (Abbreviated by me):
In a large bowl, gently whisk the eggs, egg whites, granulated sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
Sift flour, sugar, and salt onto piece of waxed paper. Fold into batter. Then fold melted butter and coconut into batter until smooth. Batter will be fairly thin. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
Spray molds of madeleine pan with nonstick cooking spray. Fill each shell mold with about 1 tablespoon of batter. Place pan on baking sheet and bake until madeleines are firm and golden brown with small hump, 10 to 12 minutes.
Transfer to wire rack, pop them out with tip of sharp paring knife and let cool. Repeat.
I used a mini madeleine pan, and it produced about 80 mini madeleines.
I also used unsweetened shredded coconut rather than the sweetened variety as I find it too cloying in some desserts. And, I usually do, I used kosher salt rather than regular table salt, to avoid the taste of iodine. Disclaimer: use of kosher salt is not generally recommended in use of baking, but I took a chance, and it worked out fine.
Other recipes call for use of melted butter than flour rather than nonstick cooking spray, but when you have only one pan, the cooking spray is a much more viable alternative. Cleans much more quickly.
Also, as I quickly found out, the baking time for mini madeleines is much shorter – about 6-8 minutes so watch them carefully.
On another occasion, I split the batter in two, adding coconut in one bowl. In the other bowl, I added a couple of teaspoons of juice and a couple of teaspoons of the zest from an organic lemon (I find it so much more pungent). The lemon-scented madeleines needed a bit more time to cook but they were even more delicate and fluffy than their coconut counterparts. If possible, leave lemon-flavoured batter in refrigerator for longer time as the flavour will have greater chance of permeating the batter if you do so.
I dusted my madeleines with powdered sugar, although this recipe doesn’t call for it, and others do.
Would I make this again?
Definitely, and I have, to much delight among my family members and co-workers. It’s an elegant sweet treat to dip in your tisane or coffee and lovely to include at a sweet table.
Be warned, don’t overfill each mold or it will puff up larger than the mold and the edges will turn brown. The batter should be just less than each mold. The recipe is a bit finicky, and will require some babysitting. This is not one where you can stick it in the oven and go do your laundry.
While these are best served fresh from the oven, I have refrigerated them and microwaved them for mere seconds before serving them the next day.
Four stars out of five