Last minute lunch invitation and obviously I can’t turn up empty handed; I was lucky enough to have all the ingredients in my cupboard to make these deliciously beautiful shell-like cakes. These tiny treats are easy to make, but you need to be aware that the cake batter needs to be chilled for at least an hour and it is also recommended that the tin is greased, floured and then chilled. All this chilling is in order to achieve the hump that gives the madeleine its authenticity. The recipe of course is from Sweet; what a brilliant buy that was, I’ve made so many of the recipes. Anyway, I packaged the madeleines into a box and tied a ribbon round it and presented it to a delighted hostess. Naturally, I ate one first; one has to taste test these things. The verdict: sweet, delicate perfection.
90g unsalted butter, plus an extra 20g, melted, for brushing
2 tsp honey, plus an extra 3 tbsp, for glazing
¼ tsp saffron threads
2 large eggs
75g caster sugar
scraped seeds of ¼ vanilla pod
finely grated zest of 1 small orange (1 tsp)
90g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
⅛ tsp salt
20g shelled pistachio kernels, finely blitzed
- Place the butter, honey and saffron threads in a small saucepan over a low heat until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and set aside to come to room temperature.
- Place the eggs, sugar, vanilla seeds and orange zest in a food processor and mix until smooth and combined. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, then add to the egg mixture. Pulse a few times, just to mix in, and add the cooled butter, honey and saffron mixture. Process once more, to combine, then pour the batter into a small bowl. Cover with cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for about an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6. If you are using metal madeleine trays, brush the moulds with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with flour. Silicone trays should not need any greasing or flouring, but you can lightly brush with a little melted butter, if you like. Tap to ensure that all the moulds are dusted and then shake off the excess flour.
- Spoon a heaped teaspoon of batter into each mould: it should rise two-thirds of the way up the sides of the moulds. If you only have one madeleine tray, place the remaining batter in the fridge until you have baked the first batch. You will need to wash and dry the mould completely before greasing and flouring again and repeating with the second batch.
- Bake for 9–10 minutes, until the madeleines are beginning to brown around the edges and they spring back once tapped lightly in the middle. Remove the tray(s) from the oven and set aside for a minute before releasing the cakes. The best way to do this, with a metal tray, is to go around the edges of each madeleine with a small knife or spatula (to make sure they are not stuck) and then tap the edge of the tray on the bench until they fall out. With a silicone tray they should just fall out of their moulds. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool.
- Pile the blitzed pistachios on to a plate in a straight line and set aside. Melt the 3 tablespoons of honey in a small saucepan (a microwave is also good here) until very runny, then brush lightly over the shell-patterned side of one madeleine. With the shell side facing down towards the nuts, roll the narrower end of the madeleine along the pile of pistachios so that you have a straight 1cm strip of pistachios at the base of the madeleine. Repeat with the remaining madeleines, and place on a serving platter, nut side up.
I know many people think that macarons are a fad, but not me. I still think they are the perfect morsel of a deliciously decadent treat. So for my birthday this year I wanted to brush up on my macaron making skills and develop a macaron using bergamot. Bergamot is the citrus fruit that is used to flavour Earl Grey tea but you don’t often see them in the supermarkets. When I came across some in Waitrose at the beginning of the year, I bought 6 not knowing what I would do with them. Well, I didn’t do anything with them. I found out the season was really short and that the flavour can be very overpowering. I decided to zest and juice them. I froze the juice in ice cube trays and wrapped the zest in baking paper then placed them in a container and put it in the freezer until I had a game plan.
So here is my game plan. I used the lemon birthday macaron recipe I posted in 2016 and replaced the lemon in Pierre Herme’s recipe with the bergamot. I also ended up adding extra bergamot zest to the bergamot cream so there was enough Earl Grey flavour to make me happy, but they were still quite lemony, pleasing the Earl Grey phobes.
300g ground almonds
300g icing sugar
110g ‘liquified’ egg whites (separate the egg whites 3 days before using)
1/2g golden yellow food colouring
10g lemon yellow food colouring
300g caster sugar
75g mineral water
110g ‘liquified’ egg whites
For the bergamot cream
225g whole fresh eggs
240g caster sugar
160g fresh bergamot juice (1-2 bergamots)
350g ‘La Viette’ butter at room temperature
100g ground almonds
bergamot zest (to taste)
- To ‘liquify’ the egg whites leave them to age for 3 days before using.
- The day before, make the bergamot cream.
- Rinse, dry and zest the bergamots.
- Rub the zest and the sugar together.
- In a bowl, mix together the bergamot juice, the bergamot zest and sugar mixture and the eggs. Tip this into a bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Beat until the mixture reaches 83/84°C. Allow to cool to 60°C then add the butter cut into pieces. Whisk until the cream is smooth then use a hand blender to blend for 10 minutes.
- Pour the cream into a gratin dish. Press cling film over the surface of the cream. Set aside in the fridge until the next day.
- Next day, sift together the icing sugar and ground almonds. Stir the food colouring into the first portion of the liquified egg whites. Pour the coloured egg whites over the mixture of icing sugar and ground almonds but do not stir.
- Bring the water and sugar to boil at 118°C. When the syrup reaches 115°C, simultaneously start whisking the second portion of liquified egg whites to soft peaks.
- When the sugar reaches 118°C, pour it over the egg whites. Whisk and allow the meringue to cool down to 50°C, then fold into the almond-sugar mixture.
- Spoon the batter into a piping bag with a plain nozzle.
- Pipe rounds of batter about 3.5cm in diameter, spacing them 2cm apart on baking trays lined with baking parchment.
- Rap the trays on the work surface covered with a cloth to remove any air bubbles. Leave to stand for at least 30 minutes until a skin has formed on the surface.
- Preheat oven to 180°C then put the trays in the oven. Bake for 12 minutes.
- When out of the oven, slide the shells onto the work surface.
- Stir together the bergamot cream and the ground almonds. Spoon the cream into a piping bag with a plain nozzle. Pipe a generous mound of cream on to half the shells and top with the remaining shells.
- Store the macarons in the fridge for 24 hours and bring them back out for 2 hours before serving.