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Classic Madeleines of Commercy are small, iconic French cakes shaped like shells with a distinct little bump on the top. They are soft in the center and slightly crunchy on the edges. Though their shape is complex, they use simple ingredients including eggs, sugar, flour, melted butter, and some lemon or orange for flavor.
I love these Classic Madeleines of Commercy. These are childhood memories. A beloved delicacy that the French people like to eat or dip in a hot drink.
What is the origin of Madeleines of Commercy?
“They were created in Commercy (Northeastern of France) by Madeleine, a replacement for Stanislas’ pastry chef, who had given up his apron at a reception organized by the Duke of Lorraine. Madeleine, the simple maid, baked the only cake for which she knew the family recipe in scallop shells. The king and his guests ate so many of these cakes that Stanislas decided to call them by the name of his servant “Madeleine”.
A few days later, Stanislas sent a box to Versailles for his daughter, Queen Marie Leczinksa, the wife of Louis XV. These little cakes were much appreciated at court, where they were given the name of the Queen’s cake. However, the sovereign protested and insisted that the delicacy retain the name given to it by its illustrious godfather and under which its fame only grew. Since then la Madeleine has thus become the specialty of Commercy.” (“La Cuisine Lorraine” Jean-Marie Cuny).
A literary reference with Proust
Madeleine also owes its real fame to Marcel Proust and his first book “A la Recherche du Temps Perdu” (In Search of Lost Time, Volume I: Swann's Way - Part One "Combray"). In it, Proust described childhood memories of soaking Madeleines in a cup of tea:
"And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste
was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday
mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did
not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning
to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me,
dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of
the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind
before I tasted it; perhaps because I had so often seen such
things in the meantime, without tasting them, on the trays
in pastry-cooks’ windows, that their image had dissociated
itself from those Combray days to take its place among
others more recent; perhaps because, of those memories so
long abandoned and put out of mind, nothing now
survived, everything was scattered; the shapes of things,
including that of the little scallop-shell of pastry, so richly
sensual under its severe, religious folds, were either
obliterated or had been so long dormant as to have lost the
power of expansion which would have allowed them to
resume their place in my consciousness. But when from a
long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are
dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and
smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more
immaterial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised
a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping,
amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in
the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the
vast structure of recollection.
"And as soon as I had recognised the taste of the piece
of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom
which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet
know and must long postpone the discovery of why this
memory made me so happy) immediately the old grey
house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a
stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to
the garden which had been built out behind it for my
parents (the isolated segment which until that moment
had been all that I could see); and with the house the town,
from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square
where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along
which I used to run errands, the country roads we took
when it was fine. And as in the game wherein the Japanese
amuse themselves by filling a porcelain bowl with water
and steeping in it little pieces of paper which until then are
without character or form, but, the moment they become
wet, stretch and twist and take on colour and distinctive
shape, become flowers or houses or people, solid and
recognisable, so in that moment all the flowers in our
garden and in M. Swann’s park, and the waterlilies on the
Vivonne and the good folk of the village and their little
dwellings and the parish church and the whole of
Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity,
sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea."
Since then, the “Madeleine of Proust” has become a metaphor for when a feeling of nostalgia is caused by a smell, a color, or a place.
How to get the distinct Madeleine bump?
There are a lot of theories on how to obtain the famous hump of Madeleine. But what works for me, each time is:
- Making sure to preheat the oven at a high temperature (445F) to get the distinct Madeleine bump.
- Spooning or piping the batter in the madeleine mold a little less than ¼ inch from the edge (but no more).
- Putting the filled mold in the fridge for at least 10 min before baking.
Lastly, this recipe for Classic Madeleines of Commercy is somewhat special to me. In fact, this is my first recipe published on my blog in 2014. I made some updates since and as a memory, I am leaving you my first picture taken at that time.
Hope you will enjoy this special recipe as I do!
Classic Madeleines of Commercy
- 1 madeleine mold
- Preheat the oven at 445 F.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter. Then add the honey. Mix well. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and sugar. Whisk until well-combined and the mixture creates a foam.
- Pour the mix of melted butter-honey in it and add the lemon zest (or lemon extract)
- Add the sifted flour, baking powder, and salt to the mix and whisk until well incorporated.
- Grease and flour the Madeleine molds if in metal. No need to grease the mold if silicone. Spoon or pipe the batter in the mold, leaving the madeleines 5 mm (a little less than ¼ inch) from the edge.
- Put the filled mold in the fridge for at least 10 min before baking.
- Bake for 1min 30s at 445F, then turn off the oven and leave them until the bump is formed (about 6-7 min). Keep an eye on the last minute; they can burn very quickly around the edge!
- After removing from the oven, unmold the madeleines as soon as possible to prevent them from sticking to the mold.
- Let them cool on a wire rack. Store them in an airtight container for a couple of days.