Madeleines. Little spongey traditional French cakes, baked in a shell-shaped pan. Classique. Subject of much discussion in one recipe testing session last summer at La Cuisine Paris. As in, should they be baked for 7, 8 or 9 minutes? Did people prefer the lighter colour or more golden? So many questions. But oh, so delicious!
I have a lot of madeleine recipes in my house (and have baked them for French Fridays with Dorie) so when I came across the recipe in Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery Cookbook, I wondered did I need to try another one. Well, maybe not *need* but I definitely felt the need to introduce my Petits Chefs to these delightful and oh-so-French treats. Because, you know, they might want to make these for someone on St Valentine’s Day, right? 😉
I’ve cooked from this book before, when I made Thomas Keller’s version of Oreo cookies. And I found that recipe (and others) a little bit, shall we say, complicated for some home cooks – yep, me included – so I wondered whether the madeleine recipe would be do-able for the boys in an hour. Of course, there would be no time for resting the madeleine batter (the recipe calls for overnight, many call for at least a few hours in the fridge before the batter is baked). Reading the recipe through, it broke down fairly simply with definitely no steps that the boys couldn’t handle so I decided to go for it, resting time or not…
In fact, we had a much smaller group of boys this week (sports and music events all going on at the same time – our boys are very well-rounded!) so we divided up into 2 groups – one group working with a digital scale and weight measurements and the other working with volume measurements and cups and tablespoons. I’ll say the volume group found it easier – we’re not really used to baking, let alone with a digital scale, in cooking club, since we have so little time but it’s definitely something I’d love to explore more – I find baking fascinating (it’s all science and chemistry, you know!) and I know the boys do too (plus – sweet stuff at the end of the session? Bonus!)
The recipe is fairly simple once you break it down into stages – beat eggs and sugar, add flour and baking powder, then some butter mixed with honey and brown sugar and melted until it’s bubbling (“Wow, that smells like caramel!” one of the guys proclaimed in wonder!). We grated a little orange zest in there too for some extra flavour.
I had to laugh when I turned around to see a couple of my guys who had clearly listened to Emily Richards when she came last year and taught the boys how to measure flour with the scoop and sweep method. And yes, I totally made them pose for this picture because I was so proud they remembered this important lesson!
Meanwhile, over at the madeleine pans…
Greasing the pans and piping the batter in using a piping bag. So. Much. Fun. This batter was thicker than other madeleine batters I have made – it nearly felt like the batter had been resting (I find the resting in the fridge using other recipes made the batter much stiffer and more like a whipped cream cheese texture) which of course it had not. We used a spoon to spread it out and make sure all the grooves were full of batter.
The boys were concerned that the molds were not full enough but I assured them they would puff up in the oven (and crossed my fingers that they would!).
And you know what? They did!
Not quite with the signature bump on top (the resting period apparently helps to make sure the bump is present), but I prefer our subtle dome anyway!
So very happy with this experiment this week (as were the boys and their families!). Chefs Keller and Rouxel – you might just inspire some of these boys to bake these at home. Thank you.
You can find a copy of the recipe here if you are so inspired, but if you want more, check out “Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel” on Amazon or Amazon Canada. Or for free worldwide shipping, buy from The Book Depository.
And don’t forget to check in in 2 weeks (it’s a public holiday next Monday) to see what book Les Petits Chefs cook from next….