Blueberry & Raspberry Madeleines
I have this OBSESSION with madeleines. Every kind of madeleine. I mean what’s not to love about them? Are they small buttery cakes or moist delectable cookies? The buttery perfume in them just makes me sigh and want to stuff my face full of them.
I keep telling myself they are diet friendly because they are so small. Really only a couple of teaspoons of batter fit into every mold. So having 8 equals a muffin, right?
I first fell in love with madeleines thanks to my grandmother. They have been, like pork, one of the greatest love affairs in my life. One almost 32 years strong. (Now if I could only incorporate bacon in a madeleine recipe… sigh)
I don’t know if my memory is as vivid’s a Marcel Proust’s but my “madeleine episode” happened around the time when I was 3. However being Spanish, my grandmother’s madeleines were quite larger than the French version.
But I guess you are here for the ACTUAL history of madeleines and not just my history with them.
Researching the origin of madeleines I came across two stories. I will relate both of them and let you decide which one you decide to stick to. (Obviously, I am very biased to one in particular which ion my opion makes more sense from a historical view point, but then again it’s also a question of national pride.)
The French history of madeleines
According to the French, madeleines owe their name to a kitchen maid called Madeleine Paulmier on staff at Chateau Commercy in Lorraine. This Chateau was owned by none other than Stanisław Leszczyński, the twice deposed king of Poland, Grand Duke of Lithuania, Duke of Lorraine, AND father-in-law to Louis XV of France.
The story goes to say that on a summer night in 1755, King Stanisław had invited “la crème de la crème” of the French court to dine in his magnificent palace. But as luck would have it, the main cook had a fit and left, taking the desserts for the evening with him.
Luckily mademoiselle Paulmier stepped up and told the Polish king she could bake some delicious pastries taught to her by her grandmother. And so guests enjoyed and marveled a Madeleine’s creations so much that they baptized them after her.
Much as I like this story, it sounds just like the mythical creation of Panettone, attributed to a Toni who saved the day when his master burnt dessert. (Pan di Toni). On the other hand, lovely and amazing as madeleines are, these little wonders of deliciousness are unpretentious and lack that bit of pizzazz the typical courtesan desserts of the 18th century had.
Don’t get me wrong that’s what I LOVE about them. And not only me, that’s why the little unpretentious madeleine managed to become immortalized in Marcel Proust’s “À la recherche du temps perdu” (In Search of Lost Time) published in 1913.
“No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shiver ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory—this new sensation having the effect, which love has, of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was me.
Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? ... 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. And all from my cup of tea.
— Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time, vol. 1
Now if Proust would have been Spanish this story would have been slightly different. You see the madeleine would not have been dunked into Limeflower tea (it’s a tila for crying out loud, it’s something you have when you feel your stomach queasy). No! It would have been dunked into something more substantial and of course more delicious like hot chocolate or café con leche.
Which leads me to version B
Madeleines & The Jacobean route
The other story, a little less widespread pinpoints madeleines on the Jacobean route. The pious walkers were offered the scallop-shaped pastry on their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Why a scallop? Scallop shells have been associated to Saint Jacob (also known as the Apostle Santiago in Spain) for over a millennium. Once the wanderers finalized their journey they were awarded a certificate in parchment and a shell gathered on the Galician coast.
It is said that in particular, one baker called Magdalena made particular good little pastries. Along the treacherous route, I can imagine pilgrims talking about the little conch shaped delicacies.
Now another story suggests that French pilgrims from Commercy introduced Madeleines into Spain and there is where they got their little traditional shape. Curiously enough it is in France where madeleine stay true to their scalloped shape, while in Spain they are baked in muffin baking trays.
All stories coincide in that is was the conchs offered to the Jacobean pilgrims which inspired bakers to give these little pastries their shape. Why the Spanish "madalena" lost its scallops we will never know.
Now I will leave it up to you to decide which story you think is more likely to be true. Frankly, I drew a blank and could find no conclusive evidence of their origin. Are they French, or is this yet another case of gastronomical appropriation, like crème brûlée, pâté, aioli, croissant, etc…? (Here’s looking at you, Napoleon)
Despite its unclear origin, madeleines are still absolutely delicious. May you never forget the moment when you tried a madeleine for the first time! Now let's get baking!
(For the traditional madeleine recipe, just omit the blueberries & raspberries, as well as the glaze.)
Bluberry & Raspberry Madeleines
- 125g (5 oz) butter
- 3 large free-range eggs at room temperature, whites and yolks separated
- 125g (3/4 cups) caster sugar
- 125g (1 cup) flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. Salt
- zest of one lemon
- Zest of an orange
- 1 tsp. Vainilla extract
- 1 cup blueberries (divided in two)
- 1 cup raspberries (divided in two)
- Approximately 250 g (1 cup) powdered sugar
- Melt butter in a small pan or in the microwave and set aside
- Whisk egg whites with part of your sugar until stiff peaks form
- Whisk together the eggs yolks and the sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until frothy
- Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.
- Fold in the 1/3 of your egg whites and then 1/3 of your flour.
- Add 1/2 of your melted butter
- Fold in remaining flour, then the remaining egg whites
- Stir in the rest of the melted butter and add your berries.
- Put mixture in frige for about an hour
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 6
- Grease and flour your madeleine pan
- Take out Madeleine mixture and fill each cavity half way only. If you pour too much of the batter in they will overflow and bake together.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
- Let cool.
- Glaze, let dry and enjoy.
For the glaze:
- Crush the remaining berries with a sieve and a spoon. Collect the liquid in a small bowl and discard pips and skins
- Add as much powdered sugar as needed to make a runny glaze. Stirring it thoroughly.