Louis first tasted them at the Château Commercy in Lorraine in 1755, and his wife, Marie, introduced them to the court at Versailles where they soon became all the rage. Whatever the origins, they have become inextricably linked with the author Marcel Proust, who, in his Remembrances of Things Past, called the madeleine, “a little shell of cake, so generously sensual beneath the piety of its stern pleating.”
At the legendary Ritz Hôtel (15 Place Vendôme), where afternoon tea is served in the elegant Bar Vendôme, these cookies (adapted here) are called “Madeleines de Proust” in honor of the writer who so loved them. The chef gives them a distinctive citrus flavor with the addition of lemon and orange zest, but you’ll also find them flavoured with pistachios, tea, and chocolate (see variation below).
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 large eggs
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup ground blanched almonds (optional)
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¹/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour, almonds if using, baking powder and salt and beat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until well blended. Stir in the honey, melted butter, and lemon and orange zests. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate the batter for 3 to 4 hours or up to 1 day.
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Spray two 12-well madeleine pans with cooking oil dust with flour.
Spoon 1 rounded tablespoon of the batter into each well (they will be about two-thirds full). Bake in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, switching the position of the pans halfway through baking, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Invert the pans to remove the cookies and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Makes 2 dozen cookies
Chocolate madeleines: Substitute 3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder and 1 ounce (1 square) bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, melted and cooled, for the almonds and lemon and orange zests. Proceed with the recipe as directed. Stir in the cocoa powder and chocolate with the honey and butter.
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Reprinted with permission from Tea and Crumpets. Copyright 2009 by Chronicle Books.