Like the macaron, the madeleine is another iconic French sweet and, also like the macaron, everyone and their maman claims to have the most correct recipe and method for turning out a perfect little dessert. Madeleines are essentially individual butter cakes baked in a distinctive shell-shaped mold and, as cakes tend to do, these little guys like to rise--hence the hump debate. Some contend that a madeleine is not really a madeleine at all if it does not rise such that a distinctive hump forms on the non-scalloped side of the cake. Others maintain that the hump is unsophisticated, and that REAL French would never eat a humped madeleine.
Me? I like the hump. I think it makes them distinctive, and also makes them seem a bit larger, so you're probably less likely to gobble down 5 at a time. Hopefully. I wasn't so lucky. Anyways, I tried to find a madeleine recipe from a pastry class I took in Paris awhile back but it seems to be lost, so I can't tell you where that chef stood with regards to the hump. But I did find an excellent recipe from David Leibovitz (French enough to count :) ) and you can read more of his take on the hump here. Essentially, he claims that it boils down to the use of baking powder, so feel free to omit it in this recipe if you'd like.
In the immortal words of Fergie, "My hump, my hump, my hump."
You will need a madeleine pan for this recipe. The tart pan and madeleine pan I brought back from Paris with me are definitely some of my prized possessions. Although I'm sure it's possible to order all of these things online straight from La Belle France these days, I just felt special knowing my purchases from E. Dehillerin were wrapped up nicely in brown paper and tucked into my suitcase for the trip back to the States. Amazon offers several and I would absolutely recommend a non-stick variety so you don't end up flinging madeleines across the kitchen as you try to unmold them like some people. Not me. That would never happen to me.
A couple of notes: If you do use baking powder, you may only want to fill your molds 1/2-full or less rather than the recommended 3/4 unless you want mondo madeleines. If I made these again I would probably add honey or vanilla to balance the lemon flavor--let me know how it goes if you try this! I prefer my madeleines au naturel, but David's recipe adds a lemon glaze which I've included below in case you want to give it a whirl.
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup (130g) granulated sugar
rounded 1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup (175g) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (optional)
zest of one small lemon
9 tablespoons (120g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus additional melted butter for preparing the molds
3/4 cup (150g) powdered sugar
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1. Brush the indentations of a madeleine mold with melted butter. Dust with flour, tap off any excess, and place in the fridge or freezer.
2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, whip the eggs, granulated sugar, and salt for 5 minutes until frothy and thickened.
3. Spoon the flour and baking powder, if using, into a sifter or mesh strainer and use a spatula to fold in the flour as you sift it over the batter. (Rest the bowl on a damp towel to help steady it for you.)
4. Add the lemon zest to the cooled butter, then dribble the butter into the batter, a few spoonfuls at a time, while simultaneously folding to incorporate the butter. Fold just until all the butter is incorporated.
5. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Batter can be chilled for up to 12 hours.)
6. To bake the madeleines, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
7. Plop enough batter in the center of each indentation with enough batter which you think will fill it by 3/4′s (you’ll have to eyeball it, but it’s not brain-surgery so don’t worry if you’re not exact.) Do not spread it.
8. Bake for 8-9 minutes or until the cakes just feel set. While the cakes are baking, make a glaze in a small mixing bowl by stirring together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and water until smooth.
9. Remove from the oven and tilt the madeleines out onto a cooling rack. The moment they’re cool enough to handle, dip each cake in the glaze, turning them over to make sure both sides are coated and scrape off any excess with a dull knife. After dipping, rest each one back on the cooking rack, scalloped side up, until the cakes are cool and the glaze has firmed up.
Storage: Glazed madeleines are best left uncovered, or not tightly-wrapped; they’re best eaten the day they’re made. They can be kept in a container for up to three days after baking, if necessary. I don’t recommend freezing them since the glaze will melt.