Lemon and thyme madeleines with lemon glaze

Lemon and thyme madeleines with lemon glaze


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It is pretty much a general rule that pastry and I are not friends. I don’t have any trouble making cakes or biscuits, and there are some more, supposedly complicated things in the baking department such as macarons and enriched dough without a food mixer I’ve never had any trouble with. But a basic pastry shell? Many of the basics still elude me.

The reason why my relationship pastry is relevant to a recipe for madeleines comes in a beautiful book on Parisian sweets given to me by my grandfather, full of stunning visuals, historical paragraphs on and classic recipes for different French pastries. The problem is, while it (Sweet Paris by Michael Paul, in case you were wondering) is a fantastic read, approximately 1/3 (the most impressive 1/3) of the recipes elude me. However, there were a few recipes in the book where I had no idea if I had the natural instinct and skill set for (I’m usually a cook, not a baker) without months of practice. One of these was the classic and traditional madeleine, and I’m happy to report that they are much, much simpler to make than you think they are.

Madeleines, a traditional French childhood treat are an example of how while the British usually give the French a hard time, at least from a culinary point of view, they’ve always been so much cooler than us. Where most of Northern England dunk biscuits in their tea, a madeleine is the traditional French dunker of choice. My favourite part of mythology (the book has taught me that most stories behind out favourite French pâtisserie treats come from anecdotes that we’re not all too sure about the accuracy of) is that they get their sea shell shape from their batter originally being baked in scallop shells.

I think they’re perfect, small and delicate to serve as part of an outdoor, Summertime afternoon tea, which is where the inspiration for this particular flavour pairing comes from. My friend Joy Wilson’s first cookbook features a recipe for Lemon-Lime and Thyme Cookies, and they are the biscuit that I used to make the most in my Californian kitchen. I think removing the lime makes the combination so much more English, and delicate for the madeleine. I mentioned I was baking them on Twitter and I got so many Tweets back with different flavour ideas that really proved to me how versatile this French classic really is. Some of the ideas I need to try for future are matcha, lemon curd and vanilla coconut.

Adapted version from Michael Paul’s Sweet Paris,

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium heat until it is nutty and brown but not burnt. Remove from the heat to cool
Using a pastry brush, generously use some of the cooling butter to grease your madeleine pan. If you don’t have one you can use a shallow muffin tin. If you only have one 12 hole pan, you can cook your madeleines in two batches, washing it out and rapidly cooling before greasing again under a cold tap. Dust with flour and tap out the excess. Leave to chill and harden in the fridge
To make the batter, in an electric mixer whisk together the sugar, salt and eggs for about five minutes until the mixture is frothy and has started to thicken. Fold in the flour, baking powder, lemon zest and thyme leaves
Then, gradually drizzle and fold in the remainder of the melted butter, remembering to leave a little bit back to grease the next pan if you are only using one madeleine pan for two batches. Cover and chill for about an hour and a half
During the last half an hour of chilling, pre-heat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7. Remove the batter from the fridge, and using a teaspoon or a piping bag fill each hole 3/4 full with batter. Don’t smooth this over, we want to encourage the characteristic little bumps forming while cooking
Bake for about 8-10 minutes, until the madelienes are golden brown and the sponge feels cooked when gently pressed on top with the tip of your finger. Turn out of the pan onto a cooling rack and allow to cool
Meanwhile, blend the lemon juice and icing sugar to make a glaze. When the madeleines are cool, paint both sides generously with the glaze using a clean pastry brush and allow to set on a cooling wrack or parchment paper. Store in an air tight container
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