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Madeleines
These little sponge cakes, immortalized by Marcel Proust in Remembrance of Things Past, are at their most memorable when eaten as Proust himself liked them, fresh from the oven, still warm and a little crisp on the outside. As madeleines tend to dry out quickly, home-baked ones are best. Madeleine pans were among the first baking pans that Chuck Williams brought to America in the late 1950s, and they were the most popular items for a year or two in the Williams Sonoma store. If you use a black nonstick madeleine pan, decrease the oven temperature by 25°F or shorten the baking time by a few minutes. You can find orange flower water imported from France in specialty-food shops.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. orange flower water
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) softened unsalted butter
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Directions:

Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 400°F. Generously butter the molds of a 12-place madeleine pan.

Sift together the flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the egg, granulated sugar and orange flower water on medium speed for 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture has quadrupled in volume and is very thick, about 10 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the flour mixture and then the butter. Spoon the batter into the prepared molds, filling each one about three-fourths full.

Bake until the madeleines are light brown around the edges and on the bottom, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately remove the madeleines from the pan to a wire rack. Using a sifter or fine-mesh sieve, dust with confectioners' sugar. Serve warm.
Makes 12 madeleines.
Adapted from Celebrating the Pleasures of Cooking, by Chuck Williams (Time-Life Books, 1997).