We are fortunate to have been inundated with the most glorious varieties of apples. This is a traditional recipe and one that is very simple, but the quality of the eating apples used is what makes it a taste sensation. Choose your apple variety carefully; remember the apple must be the hero of this dish.
I do love a madeleine. I think it’s the rich nutty flavour of the butter, combined with almonds and lemon that makes me drool over these little cakes. I often refer to them as ‘mini me’, and while I do not think the world could cope with more than one Madalene, a freshly baked honey madeleine is a different matter altogether! In this recipe, the warm madeleines set the pudding off beautifully.
Madeleines are easy to make but do not make them if you are in a rush! The secret to successful madeleines is to allow them to rest for at least 12 hours. If you try and fast-track this part of the process, you’re in for a disaster – the normally light, fluffy texture of the cakes will be heavy and dense.
You will need to start this recipe the day before you want to serve it to allow the madeleine batter to rest. The compôte for the apple snow is also best if made the day before to allow the flavours time to develop.
Ingredients & Method
For the warm honey madeleines
- 125g unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon clear honey
- finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 100g icing sugar
- 40g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 40g ground almonds
- 2 egg whites
- a pinch of table salt
For the apple snow
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 300g eating apples (see Cook’s Notes), peeled, cored and cut into 1cm dice
- 2 tablespoons clear honey
- 2 tablespoons cognac or apple brandy
- 100ml fresh unsweetened apple juice
- 3 egg whites
- 100g caster sugar, plus extra if needed
- 100ml double cream
- 1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out
First, prepare the honey madeleines batter. Turn the butter to beurre noisette (see Cook’s Notes) by melting it in a small saucepan over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once it starts to foam, reduce the heat to low, stir, and continue cooking for about 5 minutes or until the solids start to turn golden brown, then remove from the heat. Stir in the honey and lemon juice and leave to cool completely.
Sift the icing sugar and flour into a mixing bowl, then stir in the ground almonds. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and salt together to form soft peaks. Add the beurre noisette and lemon zest to the sifted flour mixture and stir gently. Fold the egg whites into the mixture, then cover the bowl, transfer to the fridge and leave to rest for 12 hours (see Cook’s Notes).
To prepare the compôte for the apple snow, melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan and once it starts to foam, add the apples and honey and sauté over a medium heat for 6–8 minutes or until light golden. Add the cognac to the pan and let it bubble over a high heat for 2 minutes, stirring and scraping the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze it, then add the apple juice and return to a gentle simmer. Cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the apples are soft but haven’t lost their shape. Taste and add a little caster sugar, if necessary, according to your taste (see Cook’s Notes). Remove from the heat, transfer the mixture to a bowl and leave to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate, preferably overnight, until ready to serve.
To bake the madeleines, preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5. Grease a tray of madeleine moulds with melted butter (I use a baking tray with 12 standard madeleine moulds – see Cook’s Notes) and dust lightly with flour. Stir the rested batter, then spoon it into the prepared moulds, filling each one three-quarters full (do not overfill, otherwise the batter will spill over the edges while cooking). Bake in the oven for 12–14 minutes or until the madeleines are crisp with an even, golden brown exterior. Carefully turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool slightly (see Cook’s Notes).
While the madeleines are baking, finish the apple snow. Place the egg whites and caster sugar in a saucepan. Put on a clean pair of disposable gloves to cover your hands. Place the saucepan over a very low heat to gently heat the egg whites and dissolve the sugar. Put one of your hands into the egg white and sugar mixture and stir it continuously to help dissolve the sugar. By using your hand, you can control the heat, as you do not want to heat the mixture above 37°C (blood temperature). Once the mixture has reached 37°C (this will take about 5 minutes), remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring with your hand for another minute. Transfer the mixture to an electric stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk and whisk for 6–8 minutes or until the mixture becomes very thick and glossy.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cream with the vanilla seeds until it forms soft peaks. Fold the meringue mixture, cream and 6 tablespoons of the apple compôte together.
To serve, spoon the remaining apple compôte into the bottom of 6 serving glasses, dividing it evenly. Spoon the meringue and cream mixture over the top and use a blowtorch to colour the tops (see Cook’s Notes). Serve immediately with the warm honey madeleines.
I would recommend using a fairly acidic eating apple for this recipe, such as Cox’s Orange Pippin, as the ‘snow’ is sweet. You may need to adjust the sugar levels to complement your apple’s natural sweetness.
A ‘beurre noisette’ is the French term for ‘brown butter’ (literally ‘hazelnut butter’) – butter that has been cooked until golden or brown; some would even describe it as ‘burnt’.
The madeleine batter can be made up to 3 days in advance, if kept covered and stored in the fridge.
A true madeleine is defined by its all-important scallop/shell shape, which is achieved by baking the cakes in specially designed baking trays of madeleine moulds. You can get different sizes of moulds, but please note that I have used the standard size in a 12-hole baking tray. The perfectly cooked madeleines have a crisp, even, golden brown exterior with a fluffy, crumbed interior. They are best eaten freshly baked, straight from the oven.
If you don’t have a blowtorch, simply place the meringues under a preheated hot grill and grill for about 20 seconds or until the tops are lightly caramelised. However, please note that you will need to use thick serving glasses if you are putting them under the grill, as thin glasses may crack.