France: Madeleines

Guest contributor, Alicia Rohner

There are two legends associated with Madeleines, those delicious French treats.

Madeleines are almost always associated with the little French town of Commercy, whose bakers were said to have once, long ago, paid a "very large sum" for the recipe and sold the little cakes packed in oval boxes as a specialty in the area. Nuns in eighteenth-century France frequently supported themselves and their schools by making and selling a particular sweet. Commercy once had a convent dedicated to St. Mary Magdelen. Historians posit that the nuns, probably when all the convents and monasteries of France were abolished during the French Revolution, sold their recipe to the bakers.

According to another story or legend, during the 18th century in the French town of Commercy, in the region of Lorraine, a young servant girl name Madeleine made them for Stanislas Leszczynska, the deposed king of Poland when he was exiled to Lorraine. This started the fashion for Madeleines (as they were named by the Leszczynska). They became popular in Versailles by his daughter Marie, who was married to Louis XV (1710–1774).

Chocolate Madeleines

3 eggs
3.5 oz all-purpose flour
4.5 oz granulated sugar
3.5 oz dark chocolate (70 %, Valhrona)
4 oz butter
1 tsp baking powder

Place the chocolate and butter in a bowl and melt over a pot of simmering water. Remove from heat and let it cool.

Sift or whisk the flour and baking powder together and set aside.

Place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until thickened. Reduce the speed and add the sugar gradually. Increase the speed to high again and beat until light and fluffy.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the flour and baking powder by hand. Mix in the cooled, melted chocolate and butter mixture and blend, not overworking the dough. Place the batter in the fridge for a few hours before baking (minimum 1 hour).
Preheat the oven to 430 degrees. Fill madeleine molds 3/4 full. Bake for 7 minutes first so that they rise nicely, then reduce the heat to 350 F and continue to cook for 4 more minutes.

Note: These madeleines can be kept for a few days in an air-proof metallic box but are much nicer if eaten the day they are cooked.

Recipe and photos courtesy of La Tartine Gourmande.

You can purchase special Madeleine Molds at Crate and Barrel for $15.95 or at Williams-Sonoma for $22.00.

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