Monday, 29 June 2015

Chocolate Chip Madeleines

Madeleines are classic French cakes which are incredibly easy to make, look beautiful in their simplicity and taste delicious. Made using a classic genoise mixture, these little sponge cakes have a light and airy texture and are perfect to nibble on with a cup of tea. In fact, they are not unlike the fairy cakes or ‘buns’ that many Irish children grew up eating at birthday parties and on special occasions – cupcakes are only a recent enough phenomenon in Ireland and one that we have borrowed from across the Atlantic. My grandmother who greatly influenced my love of cooking and baking would have considered cupcakes frivolous and completely over-the-top, but I think that she would have approved of the more restrained madeleines!
Although traditionally baked in a specialist madeleine tin with shell-shaped indentations, you can also bake them in muffin tins. Madeleine tins are widely available and relatively inexpensive to buy, so are worth getting so that you can enjoy these little cakes in their full glory.
Usually simply flavoured with just a hint of lemon or vanilla, the basic recipe is easily adapted to include other ingredients such a spices, nuts, dried fruit etc. Here I have added chocolate chips to the basic batter but feel free to leave these out and experiment using different ingredients.
I love the buttery taste of madeleines and in particular like to brown the butter to the beurre noisette stage as this gives the finished cakes taste a deeper, more buttery flavour. If you are worried that you might burn the butter when browning it, you can use just plain melted butter instead; the madeleines will still taste wonderful!
It is really important to prepare your tin properly by brushing each indentation with some melted butter before lightly dusting with some flour, shaking out any excess. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to remove the cakes once baked! If you have prepared your tin correctly, you should be able to remove the madeleines all in one go by giving the tin a sharp tap. Secondly, make sure to allow the batter to rest in the fridge for at least two hours (or ideally overnight) before baking. This hardens up the melted butter and creates a stiffer batter which for some reason seems to produce a lighter result. I don’t know why this works, but it just does!
This recipe produces 24 large or 36 small madeleines, so you may need to cook the mixture in batches if you don’t own a number of tins. (Note: the batter will keep for a couple of days in the fridge).


To prepare the madeleine tins/moulds:
A little melted butter
2tblsp plain flour
120g butter
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
130g caster sugar
175g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
75g chocolate chips (milk or dark chocolate)


To prepare:
1. Brush the madeleine moulds with melted butter and then dust with flour, tapping out any excess. Place in the fridge while you make the cake batter.
2. Place the butter in a small saucepan over a moderate heat. Allow the butter to melt and start bubbling but make sure to keep a close eye on it as it can burn very quickly. The butter will start to turn a light golden brown and will begin to darken. Remove immediately it has turned a rich golden brown colour and has a ‘nutty’ aroma. Pour into a small bowl and allow to cool slightly.
3. Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer beat together until light and fluffy and doubled in volume. Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold into the egg mixture.
4. Pour in the butter in a steady stream and fold in gently. Finally add the chocolate chips and also fold in. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for at least two hours, but overnight is preferable.
To bake the madeleines:
5. Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan Oven 180C/Gas Mark 6. Three quarters fill each madeleine ‘hole’ in the tin with the chilled cake batter. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the madeleines are well risen and golden brown.
6. Allow to cool in the tin for five minutes before tapping out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely. These are lovely eaten warm, but are also delicious cooled.

Makes 24 madeleines (or 36 mini madeleines).