I gotta tell you, I f*cking love The Great British Baking Show. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine that I don’t feel guilty about at all. I probably love it for the same reason everyone else does; the contestants are kind, charming and, most of all, supportive to one another in a way American contestants would never be (sometimes we’re really the worst). The energy of the show just makes you feel good. That being said, as a professional pastry chef it is seriously cringe-worthy to watch well-meaning amateurs occasionally destroy a kitchen and their product*. One such disaster I just witnessed just last night, and it inspired me to do this post.
*Seriously though, much respect to all the contestants. They tackle some really difficult challenges over the course of the competition.
John, from season 3 (available on Netflix right now as “The Great British Baking Show – The Beginnings.” Check it out.) attempted some Madeleine during a petit four challenge. While I think he did an impressive job given the timing and stress of the competition, there were a few tricks I wish he knew to knock the Madeleine out of the park. I’m going to give those tricks (and the recipe) to you now!
I guess I should mention what a madeleine is. The Madeleine is a classic French tea cake that is light and airy in texture, and usually delicate in flavor (vanilla, lemon, or a light extract or spice are common. Madeleine are also pretty much exclusively made in the traditional scalloped shell shape. The exact origins of the Madeleine aren’t known, though a few theories exist out in pastry space.
I got a special delivery of some Nielsen Massey peppermint extract and I’ve been itching to give it a try, so we’re giving our madeleine a holiday kick with peppermint and white chocolate (spoiler alert – that extract is pretty awesome).
Madeleine are best served fresh. If you have to store them, make sure to use a good, airtight container. That being said, today we’re taking ours a little further and enrobing (coating) them in chocolate, and this will improve the shelf life!
Assuming the texture and flavor are correct in your madeleine, the sign of a perfect one is in the hump that’s created during baking. To get this to happen, there are a few things to do.
- Rest your batter. By giving the madeleine batter time to rest, the flour in the recipe will be better hydrated and flavors will have time to develop, but most importantly you give the baking powder time to go through its first reaction. Almost all baking powder available today is “double action.” The first action refers to hydration of the baking powder and the second is the action occurring once heat is applied. More time in the fridge resting means more time hydrating in the first action, which will give a better rise.
- Bake the batter cold in a pro oven, and room temperature in a home oven. Madeleine are fairly tiny and bake very quickly in a strong oven, with barely enough time for the baking powder to undergo the second action and rise properly. Putting the batter in the oven cold delays the baking process so the baking powder can create the perfect hump. Alternately, home ovens often lack the fan forced air flow or interior temp. of a professional oven, so baking the batter at room temperature will ensure the raw batter in the center of each madeleine heats quickly enough to rise into a hump.
- Use a metal madeleine baking pan, and a hot sheet pan. Metal will distribute heat more effectively to the batter during the bake, setting the outer edge of the madeleine as well as the scalloped bottom while the batter in the center rises. When I preheat my oven, I place a sheet pan in as well. Then, when it’s time to bake, I place my madeleine pan directly on the hot sheet pan to help get the bottom baking quickly.
- Have the right oven. Here’s the sad truth: without the fan forced air of a top tier oven, a truly impressive hump isn’t very easy at all, even if you take all of the previous steps. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still follow the other notes I’ve layed out – they will absolutely give you a better product and outweigh the advantage of an aesthetic hump – just don’t beat yourself up if you get some humpless madeleine. I promise they will still taste dee-lish-us!
white chocolate peppermint madeleine
peppermint madeleine batter
250g butter unsalted
140g whole milk
237g whole egg about 4-5 eggs
70g inverted sugar
8g peppermint extract pure peppermint extract
15g vanilla paste Madagascar Bourbon
418g cake flour
15g baking powder
Bring the whole egg and whole milk to room temp. before getting started.
Prepare your baking tray before getting started with the recipe. Lightly butter the madeleine mold, and coat in an even dusting of all purpose flour.
Knock off excess flour and reserve the mold to use later.
Combine and sift the cake flour and baking powder, and reserve it to use later.
Melt the butter and whisk it into the whole milk.
Combine the whole egg and sugar in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, and whip to ribbon consistency. The mixture should be light and airy, and fall off of the whisk in a steady, full stream.
Add the inverted sugar, vanilla paste, peppermint extract, and salt.
Gently fold the sifted dry ingredients into the egg mixture in to additions, mixing until just combined.
Fold in the butter and milk mixture.
Pipe the madeleine batter into the prepared mold.
Lightly cover the mold in plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator to rest for 12-24hrs.
Place a sheet pan large enough for the madeleine mold into the oven, and preheat the oven and sheet pan to 375F/190C.
Remove the plastic wrap from the mold and place it directly on the hot sheet pan in the oven. Place the madeleine in cold if using a professional oven. If baking at home, allow the batter to warm for 10-15min. before baking.
Bake the madeleine for about 8min. if you’re using a professional oven. For a home oven, the time will vary and may take up to 15min.
Cover the madeleine mold with a tea towel immediately after removing them from the oven, and let them cool for 2-3min.
Gently unmold the madeleine and sandwich them between two tea towels. Allow them to cool to room temp. Clean and dry the madeleine baking pan thoroughly and reserve it to use for the final step.
Temper white chocolate.
Using two toothpicks – inserted in opposite angels to help keep the madeleine from falling off – dip* each madeleine into the chocolate, coating the smooth side of the cake.
*Using a pomming motion – seen before when we made chocolate truffles – will help to pull excess white chocolate off the madeleine.
Keep the madeleine in a cool place until the chocolate shell has fully set.
Temper the remaining white chocolate and, using a disposable piping bag, pipe a dollop of chocolate into the cavities of the madeleine mold. The amount of chocolate needed per cavity will vary. I filled these cavities just under 1/3 full to get enough chocolate to displace to the edges.
Place the madeleine back into the mold, scallop side down. Press evenly to allow the piped chocolate to push up the sides of the madeleine. If necessary, wipe away excess chocolate from the edge with a cotton swab.
If the chocolate begins to set before you place the madeleine onto it, they won’t fuse together, so work on two or three cavities at a time.
Let the chocolate set in a cool place for 30min – 1hr or up to overnight. Unmold and enjoy!