Before we begin, I have a quick, time-saving quiz for you to take. It's a courtesy quiz, in fact, because how you answer will determine whether you should read the rest of this article or not, and, perhaps more importantly, whether you should make the recipe.
Question 1: Do you like cake?
Question 2: Do you like cookies?
If you answered "yes" to both of those questions, then guess what? It's your lucky day! Keep on reading! If you said no to either, this may not be your jam. And if you said no to both, you need to get the heck out of here; you're making the rest of us uncomfortable.
Okay, so for those of you still with me (I'm assuming that's just about everyone in the world, right?), here's the deal: We're making madeleines, those darling, buttery shell-shaped cakes that are small enough to be plucked between forefinger and thumb and delicately nibbled on, just like a cookie.*
Who are we kidding? I know you all pig out on them as indelicately as I do.
Unfortunately, you can't make madeleines without a specialized pan, but luckily they come pretty cheap these days. My pan has space for 16 madeleines, so that's what my recipe makes, but if you have a pan that makes fewer, you can use the extra batter in a second batch, or use a second pan (multiply the recipe by 1.5 and you'll almost perfectly fill two 12-shell pans).
Like any cake, madeleines are very adaptable. Add vanilla alone for a simple version, or lemon or orange zest for a bit more zing. Tropical flavors like coconut or cardamom are a great choice. Or just dip the baked cakes in some melted semisweet chocolate. Today, though, I'll be sharing one of my personal favorites, flavored with almond and glazed with apricot.
The basic batter for these madeleines is really easy to make. You don't even need an electric mixer, just a whisk. Oh, and brown butter. Because brown butter makes pretty much everything better.
If you've never made brown butter before, you can check out this detailed tutorial. Once you've browned some butter, set it aside to cool slightly while you proceed with the madeleine batter.
Start by whisking together an egg and granulated sugar until the mixture has lightened in color. Add all-purpose flour, baking powder, and a pinch of salt and whisk until combined. Then, add another egg and whisk again until smooth.
Next, you'll add a dash of milk to the brown butter that you've set aside to cool, then drizzle the mixture slowly into the batter, whisking continuously until smooth. Mix in a little vanilla and almond extract and that's it. It shouldn't take you more than fifteen minutes.
I only add a small amount of almond extract, since it's very potent, and I don't want it to overpower the cake's flavor. Feel free to add more if you want a stronger almond flavor.
Once you've whipped up the batter, it's important to allow it to rest. Resting the batter for 50 minutes at room temperature and chilling it in the fridge for another 10 minutes is what creates those cute little humps on top sides of the madeleines.
After resting, pour the batter into the molds of a buttered madeleine pan, filling each almost to the top. Don't worry about smoothing out the batter; it will even out in the oven. Sprinkle the batter with some shaved almonds and bake for nine to 12 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one of the madeleines comes out clean.
Now, you need to work fast to get them out of the pan: As soon as the madeleines are done, take the pan from the oven and invert it over a baking sheet. Rap the pan gently onto the counter or the baking sheet and the madeleines should fall right out. Wait for them to cool even slightly and you may never get them out of the pan in one piece.
Once your madeleines are released, brush the shell-sides with a sweet apricot glaze made from apricot jam and a bit of water. The fruity tang of the apricot is great with the buttery madeleines and rich almond taste (after all, almonds come from the pit of a stone fruit related to apricots).
Allow to cool just slightly before serving: these cake-cookies are at their absolute best when they're still a bit warm from the oven.