These Cornmeal Madeleines are so delicious, you’ll wish you’d made a double batch. Better start with two.
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 oz butter or leaf lard melted
- 4 oz whole milk
- 1 egg
- 1 3/4 oz sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 TBSP GF vanilla extract or the scrapings from half a vanilla bean pod
- 2 1/2 oz yellow cornmeal preferably fine or medium grind
- 2 oz mochiko sifted together
- 1 oz tapioca starch sifted together
- 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.
Recipe courtesy: Stella Parks, BraveTart