Perfect for afternoon tea!
Makes 2 dozen cookies
According to one story, the name “madeleine” was given to the cookies by Louis XV to honor his father in-law’s cook, Madeleine Paulmier. Louis first tasted them at the Château Commercy in Lorraine in 1755, and his wife, Marie, introduced them to the court at Versailles where they soon became all the rage. Whatever the origins, they have become inextricably linked with the author Marcel Proust, who, in his Remembrances of Things Past, called the madeleine, “a little shell of cake, so generously sensual beneath the piety of its stern pleating.” At the legendary Ritz Hôtel (15 Place Vendôme), where afternoon tea is served in the elegant Bar Vendôme, these cookies (adapted here) are called “Madeleines de Proust” in honor of the writer who so loved them. The chef gives them a distinctive citrus flavor with the addition of lemon and orange zest, but you’ll also find them flavored with pistachios, tea, and chocolate (see Variation that follows).
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In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour, almonds if using, salt, and baking powder and beat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until well blended. Stir in the honey, melted butter, and lemon and orange zests. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap and refrigerate the batter for 3 to 4 hours or up to 1 day.
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Generously butter two 12-well madeleine pans. Dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
Spoon a rounded tablespoon of the batter into each well (they will be about two-thirds full). Bake in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, switching the position of the pans halfway through baking, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden around the edges. Remove the pans from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Invert the pans to remove the cookies and dust with confectioners’ sugar.
Chocolate Madeleines: Substitute 3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder and 1 ounce (1 square) bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, melted and cooled, for the almonds and lemon and orange zests. Proceed with the recipe as directed.