A swanky new bright red silicone madeleine tray in my kitchen, and somewhat shockingly, I have only used it one. Bad, bad me. Time to change that.
I love “normal” madeleines, with their light citrus perfume, but I was in the mood to be experimental. In order to help along the thinking process, I turned to a rather marvellous gift that I received for my birthday – The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. This book looks at hundreds of flavour combinations, with just the right combination of art, science and culinary flair to make this quite an engrossing read and a very useful kitchen resource. All that, and it looks so darn cool on the coffee table.
Rather than using just orange zest, I decided to make some using cocoa powder, but I felt that I needed a partner ingredient. The book suggested cardamom, which was inspired for my purposes. Cardamom is known as an excellent foil for chocolate, but on its own is has a fragrant citrus quality which would make it a surprising but entirely appropriate replacement for the orange zest.
These cakes look picture-perfect, which is down to the super-duper silicone tray. You don’t even need to butter it, and still you get madeleines with immaculate, smooth shell-like indentations. And the flavour is superb. The chocolate flavour from the cocoa comes out, rich but not overwhelming, thus allowing the cardamom’s fresh aroma and flavour to shine along side it. They also look quite dramatic, the dark chocolate contrasting with the snowy whiteness of the icing sugar. Be sure not to dredge them too much, so that you can see the icing sugar clinging to the contours. All in all, a nice twist on a classic cake. I wonder what Proust would say?
To make 18 madeleines:
• 85 grams butter
• 2 eggs
• 80g grams brown sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds, finely ground
• 80g grams plain flour
• 30g cocoa powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• Large pinch salt
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Put to one side and allow to cool.
Put the eggs, sugar and cardamom in a bowl. Whip for 5 minutes until the mixture becomes light and thick.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder and sift. Add the flour mixture to the eggs and stir lightly with a spatula until combined.
Add the cooled liquid butter and incorporate using a spatula. Let the batter rest in the fridge for 4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Place spoonfuls of the batter into madeleine moulds and bake for 15 minutes.
Once cooked, remove from the oven. When the silicone tray is cool enough to work with, press each madeleine out the the tray. Move to a cooling rack, and dust the shell side of each with icing sugar.
Worth making? As long as you’ve got the proper tray, the recipe will give a good result. It’s quick too – just whipping the eggs, then fold in other ingredients, and allow to chill while you get on with your day. The cardamom addition also makes for an interesting change. If you like this spice, this recipe is definitely worth trying.