I have a confession that will make the true bakers among you cringe. I very seldom use unsalted butter when I bake. I know people go on and on about how important it is to use unsalted butter when baking but, frankly, I don’t think it really matters that much. Perhaps because when not creating recipes for the blog I am usually a little sloppy when measuring ingredients and the results work out just find. I have a stubborn streak that doesn’t like being told what to do so I balk against the pedantry many people espouse regarding baking. Of course there are rules that must be followed or the recipe will fail because baking is a chemistry experiment, but I found there is room for some flexibility.
With madeleines I have finally found a recipe where using unsalted butter and precisely measuring the salt absolutely matters. It even matters that one uses unsalted butter to brush on the pan. When there was too much salt in the madeleines it had a weird taste that I knew was too much salt but also had a bizarre tang to them. They just tasted off.
You might also notice that I did not use a traditional shell madeleine pan for the gingerbread madeleines. I found a snowflake cookie pan (Wilton brand) at Bulk Barn when shopping for the dried fruit I needed for making Christmas cake. It was an impulse buy but totally worth it.
You don’t need a single purpose madeleine pan to make these. Sure, having them shaped like cute little shells or snowflakes is nice but not necessary. You could make these in a tart pan or even a muffin pan. If you use a muffin pan, just butter it well and only put a heaped tablespoon of batter in each well in the muffin tin.
When you go to make these, don’t make the mistake (that I did) that you are making cookies and add the butter at the beginning. It is easy to forget that these are more like mini cakes than cookies. The butter goes in last and it needs to be melted and cooled but still liquid. If you melt the butter really early on and it goes solid then just apply a little bit of heat to the pot and it will go runny again in a flash.
One more thing, don’t butter and flour the pan. I floured the pan the first time I made these and not all the flour absorbed into the madeleines. It looked as though they had some sort of weird mould on them. Since my pans are non-stick and I brushed melted butter on them, all the madeleines slid out easily.
The moment of truth from you, dear reader; Are you a lazy baker like me and don’t always follow directions to the letter or do you tow the line and do things like spoon your flour into your measuring cup like we are supposed to? If you do, then you are likely a much more patient person than I am in other parts of life as well.
- ¾ cup UNSALTED butter, melted and cooled*
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 3 tbsp molasses
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1¼ cup all purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 1½ tsp ginger
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp cloves
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- 1 tbsp icing sugar (for dusting after baking)
- Melt the butter in a small pot on the stove or in the microwave. Allow it to cool (about 45 minutes to an hour). If it gets really chilled and solidifies again it can be re-liquified with very little heat so you don’t end up with hot butter again.
- With a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or electric hand mixer in a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, and molasses for 5 minutes. The mixture will go from a dark chocolatey brown to a mocha colour.
- Sift the flour, salt and spices together into a medium bowl.
- Fold in the flour and then the melted and cooled butter with a rubber spatula. Make sure you scrape the bottom of the bowl with the spatula as you fold in the butter and flour to make sure you get the molasses mixed in well.
- When the butter and flour is all mixed in, cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for an hour or even overnight.
- When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Brush a non-stick madeleine (or other preferred shape) pan with unsalted butter and scoop a 1½ tablespoon (approximate due to the size of the moulds in the pan you are using). Do not spread the batter into the moulds. Put the bowl with the rest of the batter back in the fridge and repeat this step until all the batter is baked.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until when pressed gently with your finger it does not give very much. It will feel like dense cake.
- Flip the pan over top of a cooling rack so the gingerbread madeleines land on the rack.
- Dust the pretty side (with the decorative indentations) with icing sugar.
- Serve warm or keep in a cookie tin for 1 day (2 max). Make approximately 2½ dozen.
December 12, 2013