Cornmeal Madeleines (18 shells )
It seems, by some unspoken rule, any recipe for madeleines must begin with an obligatory shout out to Marcel Proust. I can name drop with the best of ‘em and will happily mention Proust whenever I can, but feel I should point out the so called “episode of the madeleine” from In Search of Lost Time isn’t actually about madeleines, despite Proust’s loving description of them.
It’s an extraordinary account of what it feels like when taste triggers a fleeting glimpse of some long forgotten memory, the struggle to trace that taste back to its origin and the pleasure of coaxing a hidden memory into remembrance.
Proust didn’t seem to credit the taste of the madeleine in stirring his memory so much as that “the drink has called it into being.” He went so far as to write that everything had risen up “from my cup of tea.” Even so, the madeleine became emblematic of the story, probably because non-French readers misunderstand the point of the little cookie: to showcase a cup of tea rather than itself.
To that end, it has a subtle flavor and dry, spongy texture. For those of us who didn’t grow up snacking on tea soaked madeleines, the combo may taste just fine, but it won’t prompt any Proustian experience.
That doesn’t mean we can’t use madeleines to engage in our own sort of culinary time travel, only that we need different triggers. For anyone who grew up eating cupcakes and cornbread, vanilla and cornmeal unite in an amazingly nostalgic way. Even if these flavors don’t call to mind childhood memories any more than a classic French madeleine for you, they certainly taste a lot more interesting on their own (or so I’d like to think).
You can personalize the flavor of these madeleines by stirring in your favorite herbs or spices to taste, using browned butter, or swapping the cornmeal for almond flour or ground nuts; just don’t use 100% of any one flour or the batter will have the wrong texture.
These madeleines don’t require resting in the refrigerator, as many recipes do, or even proper madeleine pans (even Proust conceded, “the sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind”). A cast iron cornbread pan or mini-muffin pans would make a far more familiar sight to most of us, anyway. If you’d rather go for the classic shape, pick up a silicon madeleine mold for crazy cheap on ebay. I find them much easier to use and clean than the traditional tins.
Leaf lard adds an amazing richness to the madeleines and even though I have a pork allergy, it makes my favorite version by far. If that’s a problem ingredient for you, or just inconvenient, melted (or clarified) butter will work nicely too.
1 1/2 ounces butter or leaf lard, melted
4 ounces whole milk
1 3/4 ounce sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or the scrapings from half a vanilla bean pod
2 1/2 ounces yellow cornmeal, preferably fine or medium grind
2 3/4 ounces all purpose flour, sifted
optional: coarsely ground cornmeal for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 350° F and lightly spray the madeleine mold (it helps the shells brown better with silicon) or mini-muffin tin. If using a cornbread pan, brush the molds with butter or oil and put it in the oven and wait until it’s piping hot before filling. This will give you a great crust and prevent sticking.
Making the batter couldn’t be easier. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until no lumps remain. Let the batter stand for 10 minutes, or until it thickens, before filling each shell 3/4 full (about two teaspoons).
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the humps no longer seem to have molten centers.
I love these cookies best served warm, but they’ll keep for about two days in an airtight container (becoming increasingly perfect to dip into hot coffee or tea). They’re also great toasted, with a dot of jam.
Oct 14, 2012 · 8:25 PM
Hi Aimee! It makes 18; I’ve got the yield built into the title up top, but I need to find a new place for it since it seems everyone always misses it up there. Gotta change the recipe formatting!
Oct 14, 2012 · 10:18 PM
Hi Stella! I’m a total blog lurker (blurker?) of yours. I love reading your posts and your recipe-box is not only a go-to resource, but also has yet to disappoint! You’re a total inspiration and I want to thank you for sharing your mad pastry skillz with the rest of us! Xx
· Rachel · http://Lapechefraiche.blogspot.com
Oct 15, 2012 · 9:20 AM
@Rachel, okay, blurker is totally my new favorite word! Thanks so much for the kind words, hope you bake up something awesome!
@Courgette, that sounds like the best daycare ever! I like using cornmeal because it gives the madeleines a wonderful bit of texture and, since I grew up eating cornbread, a nostalgic flavor that I really love.
Oct 15, 2012 · 10:58 AM
Whoa, pork allergy? That sounds terrible! But also…I like your post a lot _
· Rebecca · http://www.adustingosugar.com
Oct 15, 2012 · 2:05 PM
I keep seeing Madeleines in books, magazines, websites, etc…. maybe the universe is trying to tell me I need to make these!
· Lisa · http://www.unitedcakedom.com
Oct 15, 2012 · 6:35 PM
@Rebecca, ugh, I know. Life is so not fair.
@Lisa, it’s clearly a sign!
@Kristin, oh, no. It’s black silicon. You can find one just like it on Amazon or Ebay for around $20 (there are lots of other, much cheaper ones too). I wonder if someone does make a cast iron madeleine pan? That would be incredible!
Oct 15, 2012 · 10:01 PM
Just wanted to tell you what an amazing blog you have. I’m a private chef and was discussing a menu for a Ladies’ holiday lunch with a Southern client of mine when the subject of cornmeal madeleines came up as one of the dishes we thought we’d serve. Lo and behold, I open my email today and there is your recipe for exactly that. Talk about perfect cosmic alignment!
I can’t wait to try your recipe. Have you ever made them using buttermilk? Oh and you are so right about those silicone madeleine pans. I did a cooking demo showing the difference between the traditional French tinned steel, a “non-stick” aluminum and the silicone pans. All were sprayed with a release spray and silicone baked ones always were the only ones to always come out easily and perfectly as long as you let them cool for a minute or 2 before unmolding so the crust can firm up.
Keep up the awesome work!
· Chef Mark · http://Globalpalate.com
Oct 15, 2012 · 10:12 PM
I love all things cornbread and these cookies look amazing. Now to get myself a madeleine pan…
· Vicki @ WITK · http://wildeinthekitchen.blogspot.com
Oct 16, 2012 · 12:17 AM
The recipe is terrific and your reading of Proust is, if possible, even closer to the mark. If I remember, Proust’s were probably flavored with a little rum – vanilla wasn’t popular yet. I don’t know why Madeleines are now about nostalgia (are all deserts?) but somehow a little corn whiskey flavor brings me back, and your cornmeal mix is brilliant with ‘corn’ (I replaced the vanilla). Thanks.
Oct 16, 2012 · 12:39 AM
Stella, you couldn’t have more impeccable timing. I just made cornbread (and shamefully ate almost an entire cast iron skillet’s worth myself with a side of tomato jam) and baked some apple butter madeleines. Seeing as how I dug the pans out, it’s only right that I put them to use with this recipe (all the better to scoop tomato jam with my dear)
· kelly l kellybakes · http://kellybakes.com
Oct 16, 2012 · 8:59 AM
These look so good! I love madeleines, and I feel they are very underrated. I made vanilla bean madeleines for my bridal shower a few months ago, and served them with a lemon curd, and people loved them! I have never seen them in local bakeries or grocery stores, even. I love how quick and easy they are to make. This recipe looks so enticing with the cornmeal. I will surely try this!
· Rachel · http://lifeinbatches.com
Oct 16, 2012 · 7:53 PM
@Mark, I have, actually. I couldn’t resist the hope of buttermilk and cornmeal. I couldn’t get the humps I wanted on the madeleines with the buttermilk batter, and it wound up making them taste a little too much like cornbread. Alas.
@Vicki, so many good deals on molds on there, I’m sure you’ll find the perfect one!
@Jim, You are right; rum was a very common flavoring agent back then (and even today in French pastries). I am always down for a little corn whiskey, though.
@Kelly, we must be on the same wavelength. Make use of that madeleine pan while it’s out!!
@Rachel, aw, madeleines at a bridal shower just sound so darling! They’re impossible to find unless you live in a big city with a bone fide French bakery, so they’re always a hit with guests of any sort who have generally never tried them.
Oct 18, 2012 · 4:47 PM
Madeleines are some of my most favorite cookies. The cornmeal sounds yummy. I think it might be time for a tea party!
· Dana · http://thefunkykitchen.com
Oct 19, 2012 · 9:45 AM
Dana, a tea party would be fabulous, omg! Would you believe I’ve never been invited to one? haha. Jealous!
Oct 19, 2012 · 7:02 PM
Hi Andy! I think this is actually pretty similar. It may have a little less butter than a financier, so you might try using the same weight of browned butter instead to get more fat into it, and a little of the financier’s toasty flavor. Hope that helps!
Oct 29, 2012 · 6:10 PM
Cornbread is nostalgic for me too so I’m in…I’ll try cornmeal in a Madeleine. Allergic to pork (even bacon?) = bummer. We can still be friends, right?
· fatpiginthemarket · http://www.fatpiginthemarket.com
Oct 29, 2012 · 6:53 PM
@fatpiginthemarket, being allergic can’t stop true love.
Oct 30, 2012 · 12:22 PM
Love the combination of cornbread & madeleines. What a nice American/French combo— and how very, very American of you to use leaf lard.
Absolutely gorgeous— simple, beautiful, and very tasty-looking.
· Sara at The Cozy Herbivore · http://thecozyherbivore.blogspot.com
Oct 31, 2012 · 9:51 AM
Hi Sara! Ha, I was wondering if it was very Kentucky of me. I’m imagining some Yankees may have never used it.
Nov 29, 2012 · 9:40 AM
Hi Anna. I’m sorry you feel that way. Please take care in your conversions. Many online calculators will tell you 8 ounces = 1 cup, but that is not true for most things (like the sugar, flour and cornmeal in this recipe).
It’s not my goal to be pretentious. I’m a professional pastry chef, so I hope you will understand that since baking is my job it’s something I take very seriously. For baking in a professional environment, using weight is a must. It would take a million years if I had to weigh everything I need with cups, because I bake in very large batches.
When I post recipes to this blog, all I do is grab a calculator and reduce the size, because I’m sure you don’t want to make 400 madeleines! Since I’m giving away my recipes, with photos and instructions, for free it seems only fair I can write them however I like.
Dec 11, 2012 · 9:34 AM
Hi Stella! I’m from the South and too was raised on cornbread and things made with lard so this combination is wonderful to see. I’m also obsessed with all things French and just bought a mini Madeleine pan that’s so cute! I may have to try these! I’m sure you have experience with the mini versions? Do they work the same way? Anything I need to know? And don’t sweat the rude commenter. She’s attempting a correction of you that’s ridiculous and she doesn’t even know the different between your and you’re. Kinda funny! Oh and I am now a total BLURKER on your site. Love every recipe! You’ve inspired me not to be terrified of macarons.
· Christy @ My Invisible Crown · http://www.myinvisiblecrown.com
Dec 11, 2012 · 6:20 PM
Hi Christy! Aw, thanks so much for the support. I’ve never used the mini-pans, but if they’re metal, you’ll need to grease and flour them generously, they’re notorious for sticking. But if you’ve got silicone, no sweat. Happy baking!