No, I won’t start this post musing over Proust and how the shell-shaped delicacy called madeleine has more or less become a pars pro toto for A la recherche du temps perdu (speaking for myself, at least, for I quite frankly dare admit that the excerpt on madeleines is actually the only part I ever read from this novel, way back in high school). However, this is an apophasis, of course (and here some other dusty high school recollections surface, those from a lesson on Latin rhetorics). If I am honest, namely, a substantial part (not all!) of vegan cooking is about exactly this: the search for tastes inextricably linked to one’s pre-vegan days, the quest for reconstructive, but fully plant-based, recipes.
When it comes to madeleines, this culinary journey has been a meandering one, starting about four years ago, when I bought a silicone madeleine mold during a Christmas vacation in Belgium. Back home (we were living in Sweden at the time), I tried out two different madeleine recipes I found online, and was so utterly disappointed over those wasters that were totally unworthy of the madeleine label, that I stowed away the mold in a rarely used and hardly noticeable storage drawer just below the oven.
I then went on to forget all about that particular mold until one day last year, when we had already moved back to Belgium for nearly over two years, and I suddenly wondered where on earth I had left it. It dawned upon me we must have forgotten to clear out that one well-concealed drawer upon moving out. Shortly after that realization, I spotted the exact same molds in the sales corner of a local store. They were a true bargain (only €2 a piece!), so I immediately bought two of them (and in hindsight, I should have bought three :-)).
Now I had a good reason to start experimenting again, and this time I found this recipe from Green Sage, which used aquafaba. I was already blown away by the batter, and even more so by the madeleines themselves. BUT, I was disappointed by the fact my madeleines were very sticky and did not achieve that signature ‘bump’ (other than the madeleines in that original blog post, which did have it). I still don’t know what exactly I did wrong, but after three attempts I just gave up, more or less, and decided I should come up with a tweaked version which would work better for me. Since the origin of madeleines is French, I thought I should be looking for French recipes, instead ending up on fellow Belgian bloggers’ pages (in French, however), like this and this one. There I got the inspiration to partly cover the madeleines in dark chocolate (hell yeah, why hadn’t I thought of that before!?) and to open the oven door during the baking process, to let the temperature drop somewhat, as this would be beneficial to getting that particular bulging shape.
In a next step I tried combining several recipes, and first ended up with madeleines that had nicely risen but were way too dry, then, after more tweaking, the result was madeleines that were easy to remove from the molds, but were too flat.
But my patience, tweaking and tinkering was rewarded: the fifth and final recipe I tried my hands on was an absolute hit! They had nicely risen, had a tiny bump, and could be smoothly removed from the molds without sticking and breaking. So here comes the recipe, in case you would like to have a go at it yourself. Warning: these madeleines ARE addictive!
- 130 g flour (I used spelt)
- 80 g cane sugar
- 100 vegan butter – I used Alsan, as that is more solid than Alpro (I find that alpro’s vegan butter is often too soft for baking; that is definitely the case when making puff pastry, for instance). Another option is using a blend of 60 g odourless coconut oil and 30 g canola oil (for instance with butter flavour). I’ve tried this too, and the result is similar to the one with Alsan.
- 7 TB aquafaba
- 2,5 tsp lemon zest
- 1,5 tsp baking powder
- 0,5 tsp salt
- optional: some drops of vanilla-butter flavouring
Whisk all ingredients until you have a smooth batter. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Grease the pan and dust it with flour. Then drop a tablespoon of the batter in your mold for each madeleine. Preheat the oven at 220 degrees C (if you do not use silicone molds, you can even increase the heat to 240 degrees). Bake the madeleines for 6 minutes at 220 degrees, then open the oven door and let the temperature drop to 200 degrees and let the madeleines bake for 4-6 more minutes (I advise to just keep an eye on them, so that you see when it’s time to turn off the oven; they should have turned nicely golden). When they’re done, leave the oven door ajar, and let the madeleines sit for about fifteen minutes. Then remove them from the oven ánd from the mold, and let them cool on a grid.
For chocolate covered madeleines, melt some chocolate, drop half a (tea)spoonful in each individual madeleine mold and make sure the mold is entirely lined with chocolate (use a brush or just a finger to distribute the chocolate evenly), and then gently press the cooled-off madeleines back into the mold. Let cool (in a freezer it just takes five minutes), and then remove the madeleines from the mold.