These shell-shaped treats are very special and are best served warm – top restaurants bake them to order and serve them fresh from the oven. Allow time for careful whisking and folding to make these light and buttery; the process is easy, but just takes a little patience. Some recipes include baking powder to ensure the cakes get a good rise, but these are just lovely without it. You can make these savoury by adding a little thyme or rosemary with the flour.
Put the soft brown sugar into a food processor, blitz it until it is really fine and then set it aside. Place the butter in a small pan over a low heat and cook it until it melts. Then turn up the heat and continue to cook until the butter goes golden brown and starts to smell nutty. Take it off the heat and allow it to cool down a little.
It is best to whisk the eggs first and then add the sugar rather than whisking it all at once as this will give you much more volume. Put the eggs into a bowl with the salt and whisk them up until they are really light and fluffy. The best way to do this is by using a hand-held electric whisk or a stand mixer. It can take the mixture up to 10 minutes to get super light and fluffy – this stage does take a little time, but it is so worth it. The mixture is ready when it is mousse-like and reaches the ribbon stage.
Add the blitzed sugar and the vanilla into the bowl, tipping it around the outside of the egg mixture so that you don’t knock out all of the valuable air you have whisked into it. Then whisk this up again so that it goes back to being super light and fluffy. Keep whisking it again until it becomes mousse-like and reaches the ribbon stage once more – this can take another good 10 minutes, but it is worth taking your time for your lovely madeleines.
Pour the melted butter into the bowl, tipping it around the outside of the mixture, as before. This time, fold the mixture together with a spatula, using as few stirs as possible to keep the air in. Gently tip the flour into the bowl, again tipping it around the outside of the batter, and then fold it in to combine with the spatula.
Spoon the well-combined mixture into the piping bag, snip about 1.5cm off the end of the bag and then pipe the mixture between the moulds until they are level, leaving 1–2mm of space from the top for the mixture to rise. You can also use a large spoon instead of the piping bag, if you prefer, leaving 1–2mm of space from the top for the madeleines to rise.
Pop the tins into the oven and
Once the madeleines are baked, remove them from the oven and carefully loosen them from the tins with a palette knife. Serve immediately, pretty ‘scalloped’-side up (top-side down). Dust with some icing sugar, if you fancy it.
© Lorraine Pascale, 2017. Images: © Myles New, 2017.