High Altitude Baking: Lemon madeleines, mini spongecakes (recipe)
Editor’s note: High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Thank you, Marcel Proust, for elevating these lovely little pastries to celebrity status. And, thank you, Starbucks, for making them so well known in the U.S.
Though often mistaken for cookies, madeleines are actually small sponge cakes, baked in shell-shaped molds. I’ve been making this lemon-flavored variation for years.
The molds that create these little beauties are available at kitchen stores and from a variety of online sources.
You can select from several shell sizes (standard, mini or maxi). I find I get the best results using a light-colored metal mold with 12 standard-sized shell cups.
If you don’t have cake flour, then bleached all-purpose flour can be substituted for it in this recipe. And, if you’re without a double boiler, then you can make one by simmering a few inches of water in a saucepan and stacking a heatproof bowl (preferably metal) on top, so it fits snugly and the bottom of the bowl is inside the pan but at least 2 inches above the simmering water.
(Adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 feet and above. Make in a standard madeleine mold.)
1/2 cup bleached all-purpose flour (spoon and level)
1/4 cup cake flour
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
1/4 teaspoon lemon oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4-1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
Step 1: Spray the madeleine mold with a vegetable oil-flour spray and use a paper towel to spread it evenly. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the lower third.
Step 2: Place both flours and the salt in a small bowl or 2-cup measure and whisk vigorously to aerate and combine well. Set this aside.
Step 3: Melt the butter and set it aside to cool.
Step 4: Put the eggs and egg yolk in the top of a double boiler over, but not touching, simmering water. With a hand-held electric mixer on a low speed, beat them until quite frothy. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and slowly add the sugar, a half-teaspoon at a time, beating until the mixture has thickened and the surface is speckled with small bubbles. Remove from the heat, add the lemon oil and beat again until well combined and creamy.
Step 5: Quickly whisk in the flour mixture. Then, using a rubber or silicone spatula, fold in the cooled and melted butter, dribbling it in, a little at a time, and folding until that amount is incorporated before adding more. All of the butter must be absorbed into the batter; check the bottom of the bowl to make sure it is.
Step 6: Fill the shell cups of the madeleine mold almost to capacity … only the very edge of each cup should be showing after they are filled. Bake until the little cakes develop a hump (yes, it’s supposed to do that), spring back when touched, and start to show golden edges, from 11-15 minutes in the oven.
Step 7: Cool in the pan on a rack for a few minutes, and then carefully remove them from the pan, lifting them out gently and placing them on the rack to cool completely.
Step 8: When almost cool, make the glaze by whisking the lemon juice and smaller amount of sugar until smooth. Give it a taste, add more sugar if you want a sweeter flavor. Brush the shell side of each madeleine with some glaze. Let them rest for several minutes to absorb it, then brush them again. Return them to the rack while the glaze sets.
Step 9: Serve them immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 12 hours. If you aren’t serving them on the day they’re made, then freeze them on that day; they keep well frozen for up to a month. Defrost at room temperature.
Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbook “Cookies in the Clouds” (available at The Next Page Books & Nosh in Frisco), is a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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