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Saturday, March 29, 2003

Madeleines madness


I have been working on creating my ultimate madeleine recipe for a while.  I've researched as many recipes as I could get my hands on, and in as many languages as I could comprehend.  I also baked batch after batch of madeleines, testing different recipes and variations. My friends are complaining they're gaining weight, I thought them silly:  How could one gain weight on these tiny delights. :-)

I consider this recipe It!  My perfect madeleine recipe.  The base recipe was borrowed from Mariage Frères, but I've changed the proportions and the technique.  These madeleines are infused with honey and Earl Grey tea.  They are so very good.  Follow the recipe very carefully, these little yummies are quite tricky I tell you. 

Madeleines au thé façon Pim   
Tea Madeleines
(make about 24 madeleines)

200 g. Pastry flour
4 eggs + 1 yolk
120 g. granulated sugar
160 g beurre noisette
10 g. soft butter, for greasing the mold
20 g. tea (preferably good quality loose leaves Earl Grey, I use Mariage Frères)
80 g. liquid honey.  If your honey has crystallized, just warm it in the microwave for 20 sec.

mise en place
1.  To make 160 g. of beurre noisette, you need to start out with about 240 g. of cold butter.  The butter will lose 20-30% of weight in the process.  Put the butter in a medium glass bowl, cover, and microwave (yes, really) for 2-3 minutes, depending on the power of your microwave.  Watch it carefully, when the butter turn dark golden brown, take it out and add the loose tea leaves.  Let the tea infuse for 3 minutes, strain and weigh the resulting beurre noisette liquid. You will need exactly 160 g.  Add more butter if you are short a few gram.  Let it cool to just above room temperature.

Now you make the batter: 
1.  beat the eggs and sugar together on top of a bain-marie, until the eggs mixture is warm to the touch and looks like yellow syrup.  (or, if you are as obsessed as I am, use your candy thermometer and measure the temp to exactly 135F, take the batter off the heat immediately, continue to beat, then follow the next steps)
2.  add the honey and mix well, beat the egg mixture (preferably using your KitchenAid) until triple in bulk.  When in doubt, beat a bit more.  You can't really over-beat at the moment.
3.  take about a cup of the mixture and put into a separate bowl, mix well with the beurre noisette that has been infused with tea.
4.  add the flour, don't use the machine, you should fold the flour in by hand.  I use a slotted spoon to do the job.  Be careful not to over mix, your madeleines will come out tough.
5.  fold in the beurre noisette mixture, very gently.
6.  cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the batter rest in the fridge for a few hour, or overnight even.

Now you bake:
1. preheat the oven to (just a tad higher than) 350F. or exactly 185C
2. butter and flour your madeleine pan--make sure you completely cover each mold with butter and flour, shake off the excess.  I use a strong shiny tin pan, not the dark non-stick type which will bake your Madeleines too dark. 
3. put the batter in a large pastry bag fitted with a medium-size round tip.  If you don't have a pastry bag, you can just spoon the batter into each mold instead.  It will take longer to fill a pan, but it will work just as well.
4. fill in each mold by squeezing a 1.5-2 inch round ball into each mold, slightly toward the wider end.  If you use a spoon, use about a scant 1tbsp of batter in each mold.  Note: Every single Madeleine recipes I have seen calls for filling the mold 3/4 full.  This of course makes no bloody sense, since the batter is usually very cold and forms a rather stiff ball instead of softly filling the mold 3/4 of the way.  I think my method makes a bit more sense.  What do you think?
5. bake for 12-15 minutes, until the edges turn a bit darker than golden brown. 
6. unmold and let cool on a rack. 
7. repeat the process with another batch of madeleine batter, until you are done. 

Here are a few problems I've come across and found a way to fix.
1. Madeleines are too tough.  This is most likely because the batter was over-mixed after the addition of the flour.  This creates more gluten, toughening the madeleines.  It could also be that your batter has not rested properly, so the gluten has not had enough time to soften.  Mix the batter more lightly next time around, and perhaps let it rest a bit longer.
2.  No bump!  This could be due to a few things.  One could be that your batter is not cold enough.  Second, your oven may not be hot enough, check the temperature.  Third, you may need to fill the mold a bit more.  You need enough batter in each mold to fill it and push up as it bakes.

Let me know how they turn out for you.  Feel free to share my discovery with anyone you'd like--just a little attribution will be appreciated. :-)

If you find this recipe useful, please consider giving a few dollars to help my charity drive for Doctors without Borders by clicking on the picture below. (This fundraising is over.  Thank you.)


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