Ask any French major about the madeleine cookie and they will almost certainly have a reaction. Anyone who had to slog through Marcel Proust's famed A la recherche du temps perdu will remember lengthy discussions about la madeleine and its significance to Proust's narrator. It may even be the only thing you remember about the book (Guilty. But cut me a break, I was only a French minor).
The brief version of the story is that the taste of a madeleine unexpectedly transports the narrator back to his childhood, tapping into a long-forgotten memory. And who can blame him, really? The madeleine, a cross between a sponge cake and a cookie, is pretty much the definition of childhood comfort food: buttery, sweet and simple.
Traditionally, madeleines are flavored with just a bit of lemon zest or vanilla. This version incorporates orange and warm spices, like cinnamon and cardamom, that make them a perfect companion to a nice cup of coffee or tea on a chilly day!
It's also important to note that these should ideally be eaten straight out of the oven -- they lose something after they sit for a while. Pastry chef Dominique Ansel insists on baking the madeleines in his shops to order, which I think is brilliant and well-worth waiting for.
You really do need a madeleine pan for this -- no getting around it! I recommend a nice nonstick version of the pan to help the finished cookies slide right out of their molds (mine is from Williams-Sonoma, but you can find these pans at any baking/kitchen shop). In my mind, madeleines are a success when they are slightly golden on the scalloped side (spoiler: that's thanks to some extra butter that we're going to coat the pan with!) and have the distinctive "hump" on the other.
Adapted from David Lebovitz's My Paris Kitchen
2 eggs (at room temperature)
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. orange zest
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, plus about 2 Tbsp. melted for brushing the moulds
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer), cream together the eggs and sugar until very light and fluffy.
In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking powder, orange zest, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and sea salt. Stir to combine.
Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture to the eggs and sugar. Mix until combined, then cover the bowl and set aside at room temperature for one hour.
While the batter rests, melt the butter and honey together in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as everything is melted, remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Using a whisk, gradually add the melted butter into the batter and stir until the batter is smooth and silky. Add the vanilla extract and stir to incorporate. Cover the bowl and let the batter rest for one hour more.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush the inside of the madeleine mould with melted butter using a pastry brush. My pan has 16 "standard" size indentations, which is the perfect amount for this recipe. You may need to bake more than one batch if your indentations are much larger or smaller.
Fill each indentation about 3/4 full (don't fill all the way up to the top!!) and tap the pan against the counter to settle the batter. Bake the madeleines for about 10 minutes until they spring back slightly when you touch them.
Set up a wire cooling rack and tip the pan to easily release the madeleines. Try to enjoy immediately if you can!