Our cookbook of the week is French Appetizers by Québec City-based writer and food stylist Marie Asselin. Tomorrow, we’ll feature an interview with its author.
Marie Asselin is a believer in always ending l’apéro (cocktail hour) on a sweet note. Her spiced madeleines – tender, buttery and designed to dunk in salted caramel sauce – have never failed to make a mark.
“You can’t go wrong with madeleines with salted caramel sauce. It’s a French classic and the salted caramel sauce is good as is. I eat it by the spoonful,” she says with a laugh. “I always keep it in the fridge as well because I serve it over cake.”
In developing the recipe, Asselin polled her recipe testers and Instagram followers, asking: “Have you ever made madeleines before? And if no, why not?” The answer, overwhelmingly, from those who had never attempted them was because they didn’t have a madeleine pan, with its trademark shell-shaped moulds. To remove the barrier to making this fluffy-inside, crunchy-outside crowd-pleaser, she tested the recipe in both a specialty pan and muffin pan.
“(A regular muffin pan) worked really well. It’s very surprising,” says Asselin. “They’re going to be round of course; they’re not going to have that shell look. But the bottom gets crunchy and they have that really nice hump on the top. It creates a really cute little round cake that you can dip into the sauce as well.”
SPICED MADELEINES WITH SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE
Salted Caramel Sauce:
1/4 cup (50 mL) water
1/4 cup (50 mL) sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) heavy cream, divided
1 tbsp (15 mL) unsalted butter
Scraped seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean, 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla bean paste or 2 tsp (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp (2 mL) sea salt (such as fleur de sel flakes or another smooth-tasting sea salt)
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground cardamom
1/4 tsp (1 mL) allspice
1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of kosher salt
2/3 cup (150 mL) granulated sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely grated orange zest (about 1/2 orange)
1 tsp (5 mL) pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature (plus more for buttering the madeleine pan)
Salted Caramel Sauce: Add the water and sugar to a medium stainless steel saucepan. Set pan over medium heat and stir until the sugar fully melts. Bring the mixture to a boil and let it roll, gently swirling the pan from time to time, until the sugar turns to a beautiful amber colour. Remove from heat then whisk in 1/4 cup (50 mL) of the cream. (Be careful as the mixture will release hot steam and bubble up significantly.) Return pan to the heat and bring back to a boil, whisking constantly. Whisk in the butter, vanilla and salt, then stir in the remaining cream. Cook for 2 minutes, until thickened and smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a glass jar. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight jar for up to 1 week. Rewarm before serving.
Madeleines: In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, and salt; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together for 3 minutes, or until the eggs are pale and fluffy. Mix in the zest and vanilla. With the mixer running at slow speed, drizzle the butter into the batter, mixing just to incorporate. Using a spatula, add the reserved dry ingredients, 1/3 at a time, folding between each addition until just incorporated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the batter for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or up to overnight.
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Brush a madeleine mould with butter, making sure the butter gets into every nook and cranny. Sprinkle the pan with flour and shake off the excess. Place the pan in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Take the prepared madeleine mould out of the freezer. Take the batter out of the refrigerator. Using a spatula, gently mix the batter to relax it and remove excess bubbles that may have formed while resting. Fill each shell-shaped cavity with about 2 heaping teaspoons of batter for regular madeleines, or a scant 1 teaspoon for mini madeleines (the cavities should be about 2/3 full). Return the remaining batter to the refrigerator.
Bake regular madeleines for 12 minutes or mini madeleines for 8 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Unmould as soon as you take the madeleines out of the oven by turning the mould upside down and tapping an edge of the pan against the working surface. Gently coax uncooperative madeleines out with the tip of a butter knife.
To bake the remaining madeleines, clean the pan, lightly grease and flour again, return to the freezer for 10 minutes, fill with more batter, and bake as indicated.
Serve the madeleines warm or room temperature with Salted Caramel Sauce on the side. Madeleines are best served the day they are baked. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 1 month. To return the madeleines to their freshly baked state, bring to room temperature before warming in a 300°F (150°C) oven for 6–8 minutes.
Makes: 36 regular madeleines or 72 mini madeleines
Note: You can bake this batter in muffin pans. If you do, fill the prepared cups one-third of the way up to create thin cakes with crisp edges.