In “Remembrance of Things Past”, Marcel Proust describes evocatively how a single mouthful of madeleine dipped in tea transported him back, with spine-tingling accuracy, to a particular childhood episode. Even though I cannot describe about my madeleine eating memories with even a fraction of his eloquence, I have to confess that the little shell-shaped cake is one of my favorite snacks, and a particularly good one can spur me to do some illogical things, like have the urge to name my future female progeny Madeleine (or Madelyn, or Madeline, Maddie… the choices are endless), or to attempt to bake some of my own.
Blé Sucré has been touted by various Anglophone foodblogs as having the best madeleines in Paris, so I went to the bakery one morning to pick some up. Located near the bustling Marché Aligre overlooking a grassy square, Blé Sucré is a small bakery owned by a couple, the husband manning the ovens, Madame presiding over the shop. While it does not look particularly distinguished at first glance, the owner Fabrice Le Bourdat had in fact honed his pastry skills at starred restaurant Le Bristol. A closer inspection of the gorgeous cakes displayed and a taste of the products are all that’s needed to reveal his superior baking and decoration skills.
And though he cannot demonstrate his decoration skills on the humble-looking madeleine, each one in my pack of four is beautifully golden with an impressive hump and crisp, browned edges. The crumb is very fine and tender with almost no air pockets between crumbs, and the two-bite cake is absolutely redolent of butter and a hint of lemon. Despite the light, crackly sugar glaze, the sweet little madeleine is not saccharine at old, and is just as perfect on its own as it is paired with a cup of tea or coffee.
Completely inspired to bake some madeleines, I immediately bought a silicon mold from the neighborhood hardware store and googled for a simple yet authentic sounding recipe. The mention of Julia Child did the trick for me, so this was the recipe I followed.
Unfortunately, my cakes were a massive FAIL, except for the pretty shell-like grooves and browned rims the individual cakes managed to obtained. In my impatience to start baking, I did not chill the batter enough (1-3 hours according the online recipes I found) and the mystical hump did not appear on half of my madeleines. Instead of obtaining the light, soft texture, my madeleines were almost leaden with an almost cookie-like crumb too. Sob… Guess I’m paying attention to instructions the next time…
7 Rue Antoine Vollon, 75012, Paris