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When fate sent me shopping

Like any half-hearted confession, mine begins with a defense: I am not a shopper. I love pointy shoes, of course, and pencil skirts, shrugs, frilly things, and half-off items from the Marc Jacobs 2005 holiday collection, but I’m not so into shopping, straight up. Though I have wildly expensive taste—which, I might add, I cannot afford—I have never been wild about exercising it. I go in pursuit of purchases only once every few months or so, and then with a specific item in mind and a single-minded purpose.

But within the wide world of shopping malls, boutiques, and bazaars, there is one type of store that cuts straight to the heart of this non-shopper. One step into the Bermuda Triangle of bakeware, cookware, and dishware, and all is lost. From City Kitchens to restaurant supply stores, Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, and the searing deals on The Mezzanine at Zabar’s, I am a crying, shopping shame. And the worst part, gentle reader, is that I kind of like it.

In times like these, I tell myself that no kitchen can have too many pastry brushes, shapely or newfangled spatulas, or silicone this and that. Those tiny fluted tart molds were cute, after all, curled softly into my hand, and there was no stopping the Bundt pan that leapt onto the counter in front of the cash register. Those mini loaf pans were an accident, but I took them home and loved them anyway. I’d be inhuman, surely, not to give a nod to the cheery Le Creuset display, its 5 ½-quart rounds, 6 ¾-quart ovals, crêpe pans, oval au gratins, and paté terrines. And the hours spent contemplating a set of highball glasses that leaned at an angle not unlike Charles de Gaulle’s nose were, I swear, served in solemn salute to the French Resistance.

But there’s no denying a certain something that crept onto my receipt and into my shopping bag one evening last December, when I was supposed to be buying candy cups to hold a batch of chocolate-dipped fruit-nut balls. It was an honest errand—for holiday gifts, no less!—until I saw that madeleine pan, slim, slick, velvety gray, and with curves in all the right places. I could blame it on after-work fatigue, I suppose, but this time, I dare say that fate sent me shopping. From the first batch, a few weeks later, of chocolate madeleines with toasted almonds and coffee, it was hard to imagine things having gone any other way.

Buttery, toasty, and deeply, darkly chocolatey, these little cakes melt on the tongue, crumbling away to a gentle crunch of almond. With a smattering of coffee for bitter complexity and a cockeyed milk chocolate cap,

these ruffly-edged sweets are worth a good swoon, or even a shopping excursion. It’s enough, really, to make a girl believe in fate—and occasional frivolity.

Chocolate Madeleines with Toasted Almonds and Coffee

These madeleines were declared “a religious experience” and dubbed “brownies of the angels” by one of my colleagues. But don’t be fooled by such lofty praise: despite their refined appearance, delicate texture, and outright deliciousness, they are astoundingly easy to make. This recipe, adapted from a family friend, doesn’t even require a mixer. A note for icing lovers: because these cakes are so rich, I tend to prefer my icing on the light side, with parts of the madeleine left bare. But if you want a good, heavy coat, you may want to double the quantities of the icing ingredients listed below.

For madeleines:
3 ounces raw almonds
12 Tbs (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into large chunks
5 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate (not chips), chopped
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbs unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbs finely ground coffee (decaf works fine, if you prefer)
3 large eggs
1 Tbs whiskey

For icing:
2 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, chopped
1 ½ Tbs unsalted butter
1 Tbs heavy cream
½ Tbs Kahlúa

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Spread the almonds on a baking sheet, slide them into the oven, and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until toasty and fragrant. Set them aside to cool.

Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees, and spray a nonstick madeleine pan (standard size, with wells three inches long) with a thin film of cooking spray. Place the pan on a baking sheet.

Put the butter and chocolate in a medium metal mixing bowl, and place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. The bowl should not touch the water. Stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, melt the butter and chocolate. When the mixture is smooth and velvety, remove it from the heat, stir in the sugar, and set it aside to rest for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the cooled toasted almonds, flour, and coffee grounds in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to grind to a very fine powder.

When the melted chocolate mixture is ready, add the eggs one at a time, stirring completely after each addition. Add the whiskey and then the almond mixture, stirring to mix well. Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the wells of the madeleine pan, using about 1 good tablespoon per well. Don’t worry about smoothing the batter; it will spread evenly as it bakes. Bake the madeleines for 14-17 minutes, or until the tops look dry and spring back lightly when touched. Use a butter knife to gently coax each cake out of its well and onto a cooling rack, scalloped side up. Allow the pan to cool slightly; then repeat with the remaining batter.

When the all the madeleines are baked and cooled, make the glaze. Place the milk chocolate and butter in a small saucepan, and, stirring occasionally, melt them over low heat. When the mixture is smooth, remove it from the heat, and stir in the cream and Kahlúa. Using a teaspoon, drizzle a spoonful of glaze onto the scalloped side of each madeleine.

Note: These cakes freeze beautifully.

Yield: About 20 large madeleines


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooooh, Molly, it's like you and I had a momentary mind-meld. I've had madeleines on the brain since the holidays, and now I see those darned pans everywhere. What's your go-to recipe for plain madeleines?


10:22 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Zoubida said...

I was thinking making madeleines du Commercy not long ago (flavored with orange blossom water).
They say the way to have that traditional bump on top of madeleines is to refrigerate the molds once filled for at least 2 hours. The temperature choc makes the famous classical bump rise. I never tried this trick though.
This recipe sounds delish.

10:28 PM, February 06, 2006  
Blogger Jamie said...

Zoubida: Does one normally ice Commercy Madeleines or do you eat them plain?

3:09 AM, February 07, 2006  
Blogger Zoubida said...

Honnestly Jamie, I discovered the icing on madeleines for the 1st time here on Orangette. I love the idea and wonder how come it wasn't done before.
That's why I come here religiously at each new post. There's always that hint of novelty or originality.

6:15 AM, February 07, 2006  
Anonymous Tania said...

Molly ...

Alas, I could relate far too well with your confession about the spell cast by kitchenware/cookware stores.

Of course, now I simply acquire a madeleine pan, which is something I've been coveting for a while. These little beauties sound too good to pass up!

6:55 AM, February 07, 2006  
Blogger foodiechickie said...

You and I are on the same mindset about shopping for kitchen gadgets.

7:50 AM, February 07, 2006  
Anonymous sher said...

My favorite place to shop is Williams-Sonoma, or any other good housewares store. I'm sure their profits will decline sharply with my demise (which shouldn't be anytime soon, knock on wood). BEAUTIFUL madeleines.

8:55 AM, February 07, 2006  
Anonymous kayenne said...

i could have written this post of yours. i'm not much of a shopper too. and things i like, i can't afford. and kitchen stores make me bores deep holes into my shallow pockets. EVERYTIME.

9:25 AM, February 07, 2006  
Blogger amylou said...

These look incredible, Molly. Madeleines pan. One more thing to add to the ever-growing list of things I want to buy with my first pay check.

9:42 AM, February 07, 2006  
Blogger margrocks said...

yeah, okay. now i have to go to the store at lunch and buy a madeleine pan.

quick question/suggestion: is there any way to print just your recipe or a particular post? when i print, i end up having to print the entire post and the comments. not that you all don't have absolutely lovely things to say worth re-reading, i just only have so much more room left in my recipe book. besides, i like to save a tree when i can.

11:10 AM, February 07, 2006  
Anonymous Gigi said...

I am neither shopper nor chef, however I am a madeleine consumer and these are the finest I have ever tasted. Yes, I have had the good fortune of actually inserting one of these heavenly treats into my mouth, and all I can say is that they they are a gift from the gods indeed. And since I might not get to thank them directly, I will thank Molly for making something so divine!

1:12 PM, February 07, 2006  
Anonymous Jay Towslee said...

silly madeleine rookie question - are you skinning the almonds after you roast them?

1:47 PM, February 07, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

LAA, my dear, you've had madeleines on the brain far too long not to make a batch! So hurry up and get yourself a pan already - I mean, look at what happened when I did! Really. And as for plain madeleines, you know, I have to admit that I've never baked them myself. I adore them, but my first priority after buying the pan was to tackle this chocolate-almond-coffee recipe I'd had lingering in my recipe file for a while. When I do make some plain ones, though, I plan to start with a recipe from Dorie Greenspan, whose voice and palate have never led me astray. Her Paris Sweets has recipes for "classic" madeleines, honey madeleines, and Earl Grey madeleines. Better get to baking...

Zoubida, that little bump is a coveted thing indeed. I've heard of the method you mention, but I've also heard that you should make the batter and let in rest in the fridge overnight before filling the molds. I haven't tried either myself, but when I make plain madeleines - or traditional madeleines de Commercy - I'll give one of the tricks a try.
Oh, and thank you for your very generous compliments. C'est trop gentil!

Jamie, Zoubida has already weighed in, but I'll second her: I can't say that I've ever seen madeleines de Commercy with icing. Some American companies these days make plain madeleines with chocolate frosting - individually wrapped and sold in coffeehouses, no less - but I doubt that's traditional.

Tania, resist no longer. It's futile. You need a madeleine pan. As as you can see, I speak as one who knows.

Foodiechickie, you're a good woman. Here's to our wallets keeping up!

Thank you, sher. And yes, here's to many more long, happy years of handing over fistfuls of cash to kitchen supply stores!

Kayenne, amen to that.

Amy, that sounds to me like a very worthwhile use of a first paycheck! Plus, you could earn some big brownie points, so to speak, for bringing a batch of these to your office. I dare say that - with the help of these madeleines - I'm turning into a minor celebrity in mine...

Margrocks, no, no, please don't waste any trees on my behalf. I wish I had a simple little print format for you to use, but once again, Blogger comes up short. Grrr! I'll tell you what I do: highlight the portion of the post that you want to keep - i.e. the recipe - and copy and paste it into a Word document. Then print that. I know it's a bit of a pain, but until I can pick up Orangette and hoist it out of Blogger, we're stuck with it. Sniffle, sniffle.

Gigi, I'm hiring you as my own personal blog booster. Merci mille fois, ma cherie!

And Jay, I'm glad you asked. Not a silly question at all! And the answer is no, I use the toasted almonds with their skins intact, no fuss or muss.

2:20 PM, February 07, 2006  
Anonymous maria said...

oh gosh ... this post is so wonderful.
i love this recipe as well.......
i owe you an email soon! xox, mav

6:27 PM, February 07, 2006  
Blogger kickpleat said...

Well, the sun must be shining in both our cities -- I have totally been coveting a madeleine pan as well! On my lunch break yesterday I spied a lovely red bendy silipat-type madeleine pan on super-sale and I cautiously averted my gaze, especially since I've never actually eaten a madeleine in my life! I think I may have to check back on tommorrow's lunch hour. Definitely.

8:53 PM, February 07, 2006  
Anonymous Rorie said...

Why, I believe this is just the recipe to break in my new madeleine pans .... quelle coincidence! Beautifully written post, Molly!

9:48 PM, February 07, 2006  
Blogger T said...

I have definetely talked myself out of buying a madeline pan at least four times and you are not making it any easier to resist!

10:17 PM, February 07, 2006  
Anonymous Nicky said...

Hi Molly,

I inherited some single moulds for tiny little cakes called "Bärenbratzen/Bärentatzen" (meaning bear's paw) here in Germany from my grandma, looking pretty similar to your Chocolate madeleines. But the moulds are hard to clean, therefor I rarely use them.

I don't remember when I put a madeleine tray (pan) on my "soon to buy" list... 'Think I can not resist any longer after your post ;)

4:14 AM, February 08, 2006  
Anonymous zeebleoop said...

off topic...

your final line "Note: These cakes freeze beautifully." brings to my mind Steel Magnolias.

which makes me think of the south, and fried chicken. now i need to make a trip to ezell's. :)

8:15 AM, February 08, 2006  
Anonymous Janice said...

I so understand your food shopping illness and share it completely. Last year I had to put new cupboards in the laundry room for all the kitchen stuff. This year I think I'll just go ahead and get rid of the washer and dryer. Who needs um?

6:35 PM, February 08, 2006  
Anonymous Julie said...

Oh Molly, you're bad. So bad. Almost as bad as...well...me.

My Saturday dance class is right across the street from Zabar's, and I confess -- I do have a dreadful mezzanine habit. So I already have madeleine pans. Two of them, in fact, since the Scented Madeleine recipe for which I purchased them makes quite a lot.

So I'll simply have to try your gorgeous chocolatey nutty madeleines. My impulse is to glaze with dark chocolate, however...what say you?

4:11 AM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger Michèle said...

Y.U.M. I just bought a madeleine pan myself but wouldnt have thought to make something quite as divine as these! You are the queen darling.. The queen!

10:15 AM, February 09, 2006  
Anonymous Embla said...

I've always been afraid of madeleines, put off from baking them by their delicate shape. But, oh, how I've still wanted to buy a pan. It's just everytime I pick one up in admiration, I imagine myself messing them up in a million different ways. Although now I must admit that your beautiful writing and pictures have wooed me into finally attempting madeleines... I was thinking of starting with this recipe, but maybe without the icing. Well, I will attempt to ice them, but... I don't know if I'll be able to stop myself from eating them before then. :)

1:40 PM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger cindym said...

Oh Molly, those look just fabulously decadent and divine. I wish my madeleine pan wasn't lodged in a musty box somewhere...

ps - i have a pencil skirt weakness too...

10:15 AM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

mav, I'm so glad that you approve! I've been loving p2p lately, by the way, especially your grapefruit, eggs, and Seattle shots. xox

So, kickpleat, do tell: what happened with the madeleine mold? Super-sale? Oh my. Sounds dangerous...and very, very must-do!

Thank you, Rorie. And as for timing, it appears that fate strikes again! [I'd better be careful; this could turn into an easy excuse for anything.]

Ahh, Tanvi, that's the idea. You can't possibly resist!

Nicky, I'm very intrigued by these "Bärenbratzen/Bärentatzen" you mention. I'm always learning new things from you, my dear, be it a bear paw cake or a semolina dumpling! Cheers to you, and to that madeleine pan that will soon be yours...

Zeebleoop, it has clearly been far too long since I've seen Steel Magnolias, because I don't remember the part you're referring to! I do, though, understand your feelings about fried chicken. Hot damn.

That's right, Janice. Who needs a laundry room when you're only going to spend time in the kitchen? But then again, you shouldn't take advice from me, since I don't even have a washer and dryer, much less a laundry room. Say, I'll tell you what: I'll take that washer and dryer! When you're ready to be rid of them, you know how to find me...

Julie, my dear, you are my kind of bad. I only wish I could join you for weekly mezzanine fixes! And as for these madeleines, yes, you certainly could glaze them with dark chocolate, but because they're so rich with butter and nuts and already get a nice, dark, bitter hint from the coffee, I like them with a sweeter chocolate glaze. This recipe is one of the rare reasons I would allow milk chocolate into my kitchen - aside from, of course, Vosges Haut-Chocolat's Barcelona bar and Scharffen Berger's darkish milk chocolate. But really, you can't go wrong. I mean, it's a chocolate glaze on a chocolate madeleine, right? It's chocolate! So really, do as you will.

Michele, you are trop gentille, ma puce! I see many madeleines in your future...

Embla, I know what you mean. Madeleines look a lot trickier than they are, really. I mean, as far as the scalloped shape goes, it's no work at all - just let the pan do its thing! And if you're equipped with a good recipe, you can hardly fail. I dare say this is a very good place to start, but I'm awfully biased.

Cindym, now that you're back in the States, you owe it to your fellow Chicagoans to bring them a little bit of France - in the form, of course, of a madeleine. I trust that you'll burrow your way into that box one of these days. Is there a pencil skirt in there? If you're anything like me, that might speed the unpacking process along...

3:42 PM, February 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we made these last night, it was snowing and we used toasted pine nuts instead of almonds since we had them, and i think we added more chocolate, since it was that kind of thing. and they are goregeous. your blog is lovely and lyrical. xo Elizabeth&Caroline

8:22 AM, February 12, 2006  
Blogger Katy said...

Molly, not so much about the Madeleine's (I am a horrible person, can you believe I lived in France for a year and I have never had a single one?) but about your shopping... I completely identify! I hate shopping, unless I am in a bookstore or a cooking store, I could stay there for hours. Once on the way back from a job interview to relieve a little stress I turned on the oldies station (97.3) and won within about 10 mins a 100 dollars in cooking supplies. I was SO unbelievably excited I think I walked around for about 3 weeks with a huge smile.

9:04 AM, February 12, 2006  
Blogger margrocks said...

thanks for the recipe, molly. i made these guys on sunday evening after our record-breaking, 26-inch snow storm here in nyc. they are lovely little chocolate-covered beauties. i substituted hazelnuts and hazelnut coffee for the almonds and regular coffee. absolutely delish. can't wait to share them with the officemates tomorrow for v-day.

2:54 PM, February 13, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Elizabeth&Caroline, thank you. I'm so happy to hear of your madeleine success! [Not that I was worried, of course, but when you really love a recipe, it's always nice to add more voices to the cheering section!] I would have never thought to use pine nuts - very inventive! Cheers to you both.

Katy, you mean to tell me that you had 100 dollars, and you didn't buy a madeleine pan? The SHAME! Get back to that store this instant! A little more shopping is just the punishment you need...

Margrocks, am I to take it that you bought that madeleine pan? Bravo! I'm so glad to hear that you made the madeleines - and that they have your seal of approval, no less. Hope your officemates know how lucky they are...

10:39 PM, February 14, 2006  
Blogger margrocks said...

yes, i bought the madeleine pan. i decided that as a "margaux" i needed to be able to bake a batch of my french sisters. the office pals loved 'em.

sorry to post this here as it has nothing to do with cooking, but wondering if you'd recommend any great books on visiting seattle? i'm visiting in june, and always love to start trolling for potential sites, restaurants, and shops. figured a well-read, creative lass like yourself might have a good rec.

1:34 PM, February 16, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Margrocks, so glad to hear that your officemates have such fantastic taste. Or rather, fantastique, I should say...

And as for Seattle, well, I'm afraid I don't have a book, per se, to recommend. I had a sort of food lover's guide to Seattle that I used when I first moved here, but it's now pretty outdated. I have a better idea: if you like, I'll give you my own personal suggestions - and free of charge, no less! Why don't you drop me an e-mail, and I'll steer you toward some of my favorite spots?

1:39 PM, February 17, 2006  
Blogger the gang said...

weird...i've tried this recipe twice now, followed it to the teaspoon, and each time they've stuck to the bottom, were burnt on the bottom, were undercooked..boo! Tried a lower temp, greasing them more, but to no avail! Any suggestions, Molly? I'm an avid reader, always have luck with all your stuff, but this one leaves me stuck! This recipe looks too good to give up on!

4:11 PM, December 17, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

The gang, wow, I'm so very sorry! I don't know what to tell you. I'm inclined to think that it's something about your pan. Is it nonstick? Hmmm. And is your oven properly calibrated? I keep an oven thermometer in mine because I know that its own internal thermometer is waaay not accurate. That may not be the culprit here, but it helps rule out one possible source of trouble. Gosh, aside from that, I don't know what to say. I'm really sorry. I'll be sending good madeleine thoughts your way...

11:01 AM, December 18, 2006  
Blogger Andrea Wedewer said...

I almost died when I tried these. Such a delicious, grown up treat. I made them on Thanksgiving Day and took them to my in-laws...the fools went for pumpkin pie instead and I got to gobble up the majority myself. I will definitely make them again.

7:29 PM, December 09, 2008  
Blogger Cupcakewalker said...

Molly, I'm hoping against hope that you see this -- I want to make these as the favor for my medium-sized wedding, and have had great luck so far baking batches (though I've used Ghirardelli's 60% bars, not their semisweet).

However: the glaze. Can you bake and freeze them with the glaze, or should you bake, defrost, then glaze? I'm concerned because they are going in see-through bags with a ribbon and another favor. I've got a test batch glazed and the fat in the butter and chocolate is producing an unappealing opaque white color as it cools in the freezer. I would appreciate any suggestions!

6:16 PM, September 26, 2011  
Anonymous Karen White said...

I'm smiling right now! I found this post from your recipe index and just had to laugh at your description of the type of shopper you are. So like me! Kitchen shops get me every time, I cannot walk past, and I cannot come out without buying something. I have a madeleine pan (from one such shopping trip) and will be trying these very soon.

6:29 AM, May 08, 2014  
Anonymous Amy said...

Awesome! I was looking for an easy recipe to sweeten the afternoon.
The combination of chocolate, coffee and whisky is just what I was looking for! Thank you :D

7:36 AM, January 30, 2015  

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