Friday, August 17, 2012


by Sheila Connolly

I'm in a cookie state of mind, it seems, so this post is sort of Part Two of last week's.

Why does food evoke such strong memories?  We've probably all heard about Proust and his evocative madeleine (a cookie!  A man after my own heart!), which served as the key to open a flood of childhood images for him. Why wasn't it an egg, or a perfect peach?  Why a combination of sugar and flour and butter?  Possibly because madeleines are made by humans, not nature.

Julia Child (Saint Julia) would have turned 100 this week.  In her book From Julia Child's Kitchen she offers not one but two madeleine recipes. One is labeled Les Madeleines de Commercy, which she identifies as "the Proustian model"—in other words, the classic traditional version.  I've made them once or twice, but they're a wee bit elaborate.

But she also offers a simpler, lighter and more modern version, which is easier to make.

To make a true madeleine, you must have the right pans.  I do, thanks to a trip to France many, many years ago (they're a bit bent because I had to stuff them in my suitcase).  The finished product is shaped like an elongated shell—a reference to medieval French pilgrimages? Or, as Julia suggests, maybe some early cook tried baking them in a bunch of handy scallop shells—which she claimed worked. If you don't have the pans, use any pans with shallow molds (muffin tins will do) and call them Lemon Tea Cakes.


4 large eggs, at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

Grated rind of one lemon

4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup bleached cake flour

A pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Paint the Madeleine molds with melted butter (mop up any that pools in the bottom)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, break the eggs.  On slow speed, gradually add the sugar, then the vanilla and the lemon rind.  Turn the speed to high and beat for five minutes, until the mixture has doubled in volume (it should look like mayonnaise).

Melt the butter and let cool to tepid.  Add 1/3 of the flour to the egg mixture and fold in quickly (by hand).  Then start adding the butter and the remaining flour alternately, folding rapidly, until both are used up.

Spoon the batter into the buttered molds, about 3/4 full. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from the molds immediately and let the madeleines cool on a wire rack.  They're best eaten fresh (they get a little gooey if they sit).

If you want to emulate Proust, dip your madeleine first into a tisane de tilleul, which, if memory serves, in tea brewed from linden leaves.

Bon appétit!


  1. I'm quite convinced that I *must* now take a trip to France to buy madeleine forms as I'm certain that's the only place where one can buy proper ones. Right? ; )

    They sound so delicious! But why am I thinking about dipping them in chocolate instead of tea?

  2. Absolutely, Krista! One must have the correct tools.

    I was delighted to watch a 1963 episode of Julia Child's last night and find her using metal bowls--identical to the ones I bought at a neighbor's yard sale. We must be on the same wavelength. And she was the one who taught me that the right knife is essential.