In preparation for my move to Toronto at the end of the month, I am slowly but surely packing away my books. As I was doing so, I came across Proust’s “À la recherche du temps perdu” or “Remembrance of Things Past” and thought of its now famous protagonist:  the madeleine.  Madeleines are, of course, scallop shell-shaped cakes that originated in Comercy, France.  

Incredibly easy to make, these little gems are a sure-fire way to inject a simple tea/coffee break with some class.  They also make for a great (edible!) conversation piece.  Here is my take on the madeleine.  It features a hint of vanilla to play against the cake’s traditional lemon scent.

To make 12 of my madeleines you’ll need:

1 madeleine tray
80g of caster sugar
1 large egg
A tablespoon of vanilla essence
80g of unsalted butter
100g of pastry flour (premixed with baking powder)
1 pinch of salt
The rind of 1 unwaxed lemon
1 tablespoon of icing sugar (for dressing)

First, pre-heat your oven to 200ºC/400 ºF. Melt your butter over low heat and then remove it from the stove to cool. Use a brush to spread the melted butter in the madeleine moulds, and then flour them.

Next, with an electric mixer/whisk, cream the egg and caster sugar. The goal is really to work in as much air so that you get a fluffy batter which will in turn become a light cake. This takes about 5 minutes.

Once that’s done, slowly sift in the pastry flour.  Do not over mix.  Gently add the remainder of the cooled, melted butter and the vanilla essence. Then, carefully mix in the lemon rind. If you are feeling adventurous, you can even add some blueberries to the batter.

Now, fill your madeleine moulds 2/3 full with the batter. Bake for 12 minutes or so, until the tops of your cakes are golden and lovely. Gently remove them from the moulds (I find chopsticks to be the tool of choice), sprinkle with icing sugar, and serve warm – that’s when they’re at their fluffiest.  To be extra hedonistic, serve the warm madeleines with vanilla ice cream, and drizzle the dish with some nice, high quality honey. Delish!