One hundred years ago, on August 15, 1912, Julia Carolyn McWilliams was born in Pasadena, California. Baby Julia would grow up to be Julia Child, whose professional life would be dedicated to cuisine. With the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, she successfully brought the wonder of French cuisine to the United States. The first televised cooking series, The French Chef, premiered in 1963 and transformed Julia into America’s fist celebrity chef.
To honor Julia’s centennial, I baked madeleines (pronounced mad-lens). Madeleines are small, shell-shaped cakes flavored with vanilla and a hint of lemon. Uncomplicated and adorned with a sprinkle of confectioners’ sugar, madeleines are a tribute to the simple flavors of classic French cuisine.
These madeleines are adapted from the Traditional Madeleine recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. Dorie Greenspan is a great cookbook author, and, coincidentally, authored Baking with Julia–the cookbook of recipes featured on the PBS series of the same name.
See the recipe, after the jump.
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours
Makes 12 traditional 3-inch cakes
3-1/3 oz (2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
Pinch (1/16 tsp) salt
3-1/2 oz (1/2 cup) sugar
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 oz (6 TBSP) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 TBSP confectioners’ sugar, optional
- Melt the butter and let cool for 15 minutes. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.
- Add the sugar and lemon zest to the bowl of a stand mixer. Use your fingertips to rub the lemon zest into the sugar until the sugar is moist and has the consistency of wet sand, about 1 minute.
- Add the eggs to the bowl. Using the whisk attachment, mix the eggs and sugar mixture on medium-high until the mixture is thick and slightly paler, about 4 minutes.
- Remove the mixing bowl from the stand mixer. Using a large whisk, mix in the vanilla, about 10 seconds.
- Use a flour sifter or mesh strainer to sprinkle the flour over the egg mixture. Use the whisk to slowly stir the flour into the batter. Mix until a few small clumps of flour remain visible.
- Add the cooled melted butter to the bowl and slowly mix until all of the ingredients are incorporated. Treat the batter very gently so you do not deflate the whipped egg.
- Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the batter, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
- About 1 hour before baking, butter and flour a 12-cavity madeleine pan.
- Using a medium cookie scoop, measure out slightly heaping scoops of batter into the prepared pan (about 2 TBSP of batter). Refrigerate the filled pan for 1 hour.
- With 30 minutes remaining, position an oven rack to the lowest setting. Place a half-sheet pan or pizza stone onto the rack and preheat the oven to 400°F. Allow the oven to preheat for 30 minutes.
- After the oven has preheated, place the madeleine pan directly onto the hot sheet pan or stone. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, until the madeleines are golden and the tops spring back when touched. A toothpick inserted in the cakes will come out clean.
- Over a wire cooling rack, turn the madeleine pan upside-down. If the pan was well-prepared, most of the cakes should fall onto the rack. Carefully use a spoon to remove any cakes clinging to the pan. Let the cakes cool completely, about 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle the cakes with confectioners’ sugar.
The cakes are best enjoyed within the first few hour after baking when the cakes are still very soft with a slightly crisp shell. Store any leftover madeleines in an airtight container.