Happiness Through My Eyes – February :: French Madeleines

That’s right folks! The end of February is here which means it’s time for me to share my happiness for the month. I am still giddy with excitement at being a part of this blog circle! To read the next post in the blog circle, please click the link to take you to London, England to the blog of Rebecca Spencer. Rebecca is a super amazingly talented photographer and was recently given the award for the Guild of Photographers to 10 photographer’s of the year!!! Huge congratulations to her, and be sure to check out her award winning work, you are in for a real treat!

This month my happiness was reluctant to leave the french pastry realm, so I zeroed in on my other favorite: French Madeleines. Once upon a time back when I was an architect working for OPN architects, I was having the worst day. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but it was one of those days where everything went wrong and I could barely hold back the tears that were threatening to escape. My husband {my fiancee at the time} was already living in our home in Germany. He would call me once a day over lunch so we could connect despite the seven hour time difference. On the phone that day, he told me to keep my chin up and surely things would turn around and get better. Sometime that afternoon, the receptionist was at my desk with a large box from my favorite Cedar Rapids french pâtisserie Croissant Du Jour. It was full of Madeleines!!! I swear their entire stock was in that box. My husband had magically delivered my favorite french cookies to my office and completely made my day! What he doesn’t know is that he made everyone else’s day too as I shared the magical deliciousness with all the OPN staff. While my love for these sweets began long ago, this particular day solidified the idea that french pastries can turn ANY day around no matter what bad things happened!

These light “cake-cookies” are one of my most favorite treats {other than macarons of course!}. I just adore their beautiful shell shaped bellies that set this cookie apart from any other. They are amazing with coffee and can be made in almost any flavor including almond, lavender, chocolate, and lemon. Many of you have probably seen these cookies a three-pack mass produced and sold at Starbucks, but I have to tell you that nothing compares to stepping into a french pâtisserie and tasting one made that day by an authentic french artisan pastry chef.

So this begs the question, Do you have to be a five star authentic french artisan pastry chef to make these delightful treats? I’m super happy to report that you don’t. You know what’s even better? These cookies are FAR easier to make than macarons!! {Woo hoo!} So the hunt began for the best recipe. What do I mean by the best? Iconic desserts like this can have a million variations and can even get “Americanized” {audible gasp} so I wanted a recipe that was authored by an authentic frenchman/woman. I stumbled across this recipe from 101 cookbooks by Heidi Swanson and was immediately hooked by the story behind it. She picked up this recipe from her friend Lanha, who got if from her sister Kaly. Lanha says “I enjoy making madeleines for Silvio {her French husband} because they remind him of his life in France.” SOLD. After perusing through the recipe it was actually easier than Martha Stewarts {SCORE!} and is authentically french {YES!}.

What is a madeleine exactly? Well there are only six ingredients {if you don’t count the flavor}: eggs, sugar, salt, flour, butter, & vanilla. I was kind of shocked. I expected to have go on a scavenger hunt to locate some particular kind of french marzipan or rosewater. The great thing about these cookies is that most of the time, anyone has all of these ingredients already in their kitchen on any given day. If you husband calls you at lunch and proceeds to tell you {not ask you} that Dave and Margery are coming over for dinner, you can whip up a batch of madeleines for dessert in no time!

Of course I made notes on the recipe so that your madeleines can be the absolute best on your first try. Note that these tips are based on my oven in my home at my altitude here in Germany.

  • Specialty Pan :: Unfortunately, these cookies require their own pan made specifically for baking madeleines. Most cooking stores have them, but mine {pictured above} is from William-Sonoma and can be purchased here. It’s important to note that madeleine pans usually come in two sizes: regular and mini. The only difference is that the mini madeleines bake in the oven for less time. How do you know  if your pan makes regular or mini madeleines? If your madeleine is mold is smaller than a large egg it’s a mini pan.
  • I’ll take my Butter Browned :: Browning the butter is what makes these cookies stand out from all of the other recipes I looked at. I know that it seems tedious, but the rich nutty caramel flavor the butter adds, is a key ingredient. Without this process you simply have plain ‘ole melted butter… and who wants their madeleines to taste plain? Not this girl! It does take a little bit of time and I’ve included a photo collage of shots throughout the process to give you an idea of what to expect.
  • Use a Timer :: It’s important not to underwhip/overwhip the eggs. Using a timer works like a charm!
  • Grease & Flour :: Do NOT skip this step. Even if you pan is “non-stick”. I did it once just to see what would happen and I had to peel my madeleines out of the pan with a knife. They looked like the zombie madeleine apocolypse. I was super heartbroken and frustrated… but fear not! Greasing and flouring your pan works like a charm every time! You can grease with butter {be sure to use unsalted}, crisco, or even cooking spray {I tried it and it works!}. Flouring the pan is easy, but due to the shape of the pan {and perhaps the person doing the flouring} it makes a mess. It’s recommended that you do this part outside, but I live on the 9th floor of a highrise and I’m not about to shake flour down on an unsuspecting German pedestrian. I spread out a long sheet of papertowels and sift flour on top of the pan to cover it. Then I shake it around allowing the flower to drop onto the paper towel making sure to knock on the back in the end to shake out any stubborn bits. Then you can simply fold the paper towel and shake the leftover flower back into your flour canister! Yay minimal mess!
  • Cookie Scoop It :: The batter in it’s final state drives me nuts. It doesn’t pour, your can’t transfer it with a spoon, and most of the time I make a huge mess… until I discovered that using a regular cookie scoop makes life SO much easier! You’re able to scoop small portions of batter and ladle it into the pan without spilling!
  • Don’t Deflate :: After baking your first round of madeleines you’ll find that your batter has all of these air pockets. Don’t stir it! Deflating the batter will make dense madeleines. Simply keep on scooping like normal.
  • Take Out & Release :: In the recipe it says to de-mold your madeleines immediately after taking them out of the oven. VERY important. Just dump them out onto a cooling rack shell-side up.
  • Wash Your Pan :: Between batches it’s important to wash your pan, then re-grease and re-flour. Yes I know it’s a pain… but the batch usually only makes about three pans full at most. So quit your whining and do it!

So here is your recipe courtesy of 101 cookbooks. It is her exact recipe with photographs by Kirsten Ashley Photography. Any comments from me are made in blue. Enjoy!

French Madeleines by 101 cookbooks & Lahna & Kaly
Makes 2 -3 dozen regular madeleines


1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (6 ounces)
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter (for greasing pan)
3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
a pinch fine-grain sea salt
2/3 cups sugar
zest of one large lemon {I use about 1/2 t of almond extract instead of lemon zest to make almond madeleines.}
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
powdered sugar

a bit of extra flour for dusting baking pan

Special equipment: A madeleine baking pan, regular or small


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Melt the 1 1/2 sticks of butter in a small pot over medium heat until it’s brown and gives off a deliciously nutty aroma, roughly 20 minutes. Strain (using a paper towel over a mesh strainer) – you want to leave the solids behind. Cool the butter to room temperature. By doing the butter first you can complete the rest of the steps while it is cooling.

While the melted butter is cooling, use the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to grease the madeleine molds – get in there and make sure you get in all the ridges. Dust with flour and invert the pan tapping out any excess flour. Lanha uses “cooking spray” with flour to simplify this part.

Put the eggs with the salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment. Whip on high speed until thick – you are looking for the eggs to roughly double or triple in volume – approximately 3 minutes. Continuing to mix on high speed, slowly add the sugar in a steady stream. Whip for 2 minutes or until mixture is thick and ribbony. Now with a spatula fold in the lemon zest and vanilla (just until mixed).

Sprinkle the flour on top of the egg batter, and gently fold in. Now fold in the butter mixture. Only stirring enough to bring everything together.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling each mold 2/3 -3/4 full. I use a small cup filled with batter to keep things clean and manageable, it is easier than using a spoon.

Bake the madeleines for 12 – 14 minutes (7-10 minutes for smaller cookies), or until the edges of the madeleines are golden brown. Remove from oven and unmold immediately. Cool on racks and dust with powdered sugar. {I skipped the powdered sugar step as I like my madeleines plain!}

 Madelines are such a lovely treat for me! They definitely take me back to my time spent visiting France over the years. They make delightful gifts to friends or family in these cute boxes made from recycled cereal boxes! I hope you enjoy this food photoshoot as much as I did. Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard is a great read and so SO french! Be sure to check it out!

I truly hope you get a chance to bake this french cookie and share it with your friends and family. They never disappoint! Should you want a personal lesson in making madeleines be sure to email me at kirstenashleyphotography@gmail.com and I’d be delighted to set up a baking day for us!

To continue to the next link in the “Happiness Through My Eyes” blog circle, head on over to Rebecca Spencer Photography as she writes about happiness through her eyes in London, England click -> HERE!

Wishing everyone a most marvelous Friday!!


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