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We will get to madeleines, I promise. But first, please humor me for a trip down memory lane. Six years ago, I bought the cooktildelicious.com domain and published my first recipe blog post. This blog is older than all my children, and has certainly lived longer than any of my previous blogs (which date back to the days of Geocities and LiveJournal; am I dating myself?). Historically I haven’t done much to celebrate blog birthdays. It’s right on the heels of the holidays and we’re usually unpacking from trips and resetting from vacation eating. But after a quiet staycation with a few extra days to just sit and reflect/navel gaze/catch up on cheesy holiday rom-coms, I spent a few moments gathering my thoughts on what this little corner of the web has meant for me.
The face of this blog hasn’t changed a whole lot since its inception. No redesigns, no fancy recipe plugins. (I would love to give it a refresh but there are many items in my house higher on the “need to clean” priority list.) I don’t have an editorial calendar for posts, though I have a running list of recipe ideas and the occasional scheduled sponsored post/partnership. The scope of this blog has shifted slightly — as the name suggests, I originally intended to post more cooking/savory recipes. But baking quickly took over, and this blog became a love letter to that.
Blogging in this space has changed my life. It’s provided opportunities to connect with and learn from bakers around the world. Without this blog there would be no book. Most importantly, though, it’s reminded me of the importance and joy of learning and cultivating a creative hobby.
We live in a strange time when, at least here in North America, it’s hard to resist turning a hobby into a side hustle. The moment we show some skill at baking/photography/basketweaving/insert-creative-venture-here, the voices — internal and external — start suggesting, “You should sell that.”
But there’s also nothing wrong with just letting a hobby be a hobby, with making things simply for the joy of making them, with learning new skills just to learn. There’s nothing wrong with making and decorating a cake just because you want to eat cake on a Tuesday, and decorating makes you happy. You don’t have to make a profit to legitimize your passion.
This doesn’t you shouldn’t earn money from a hobby or that you should work for free “just because you do this for fun.” Absolutely not! But making the switch from hobby to business shouldn’t be done lightly. If you run a business, you’ll have less time to devote to creative projects that actually interest you because it’s hard work and time-consuming to run a business!
Occasionally I’ve wondered if I should “take this thing to the next level” but a quick reality check always confirms that I’m right where I’m happiest right now, chasing kiddos and baking for fun. And if I have a little time at the end of the day — lucky me, here’s this place write about it and share with you.
I know I am extremely blessed that I’m able to spend time on this blog and pursue baking as a hobby. Time, energy, health, and finances are all privileges I recognize daily; and I’m especially grateful for a husband who provides honest, level-headed perspective when I’m tempted to take on more than I should.
I’m not sure where baking and blogging will take me next, but I hope to continue curating this space for years to come. As my children get older I’m even more invested in trying to preserve recipes and create food memories (the original impetus behind starting this blog). I’m grateful to all of you who have read and tried recipes here — your feedback has made me a better baker and writer. Thank you for spending time with me.
Citrus and honey madeleines: simple is best
If you made it this far: congrats, your reward is a madeleine recipe! Last year the lovely people over at USA Pan kindly gifted me a madeleine pan, something I’d been keen on adding to my bakeware collection. Madeleines are essentially mini cakes, delightfully light but buttery and perfect with tea. I hadn’t actually eaten many madeleines before last year, but had often admired their iconic shape: shell-like on one side, and humped on the other. Receiving the pan was just the excuse I needed to nerd out on madeleines. I spent a few weekends reading and analyzing dozens of madeleine recipes and baking off different batches to compare methods. I tried flavors like brown butter, apple cider, jasmine, and espresso; I glazed and didn’t glaze.
Many madeleines and sticks of butter later, I’ve concluded that I like unglazed, classic citrus and honey madeleines the best. I also think madeleines are ideally enjoyed about 5 minutes after coming out of the oven: at this point they’re still just a little warm and the contrast between the crisp, shell-like side and soft, buttery interior is most pronounced. “Fancy” flavors often don’t fully develop until a baked good is completely cooled; so with madeleines I just keep it simple.
Madeleine recipe ratios and mixing methods
Above: I tried coffee, apple cider, and brown butter madeleines but in the end I kept going back to a simple citrus flavor.
In terms of ratios, madeleine recipes are pretty similar across the board: roughly equal parts melted butter, eggs, sugar, and flour. The batter is usually mixed using either the classic genoise technique (whisking eggs and sugar until tripled/ribbon stage, then folding in flour and butter) or by simply whisking all the ingredients together.
While the genoise method does yield airier madeleines, I don’t think the difference is good enough to warrant the more finicky technique. I did find that briefly warming the eggs and sugar over a bain-marie (pot of simmering water) helped create a beautifully glossy emulsified batter with minimal mixing, so I recommend that extra step.
The coveted madeleine hump
One of the endearing characteristics of a madeleine is the hump. It’s just aesthetics, and non-humped madeleines are just as tasty. But if you’re going to make madeleines you might as well shoot for the ideal shape! The main trick to getting a voluptuous hump is temperature: specifically, cold pan and cold batter + hot oven. I recommend chilling your batter and pan overnight for best results. I also found baking madeleines in the top third of my oven produced the most pronounced humps.
Using just the right amount of batter per well is also key to a good hump. You need enough batter so that when the cake rises there will be enough batter to produce the hump; but not so much that it will overflow the well. Madeleine pans come in all shapes and sizes so it may take a couple tests to figure out the ideal amount for yours.
- I consulted many madeleine recipes while working on this one — notably recipes by David Lebovitz, Stephanie Duong, Dominique Ansel, Daniel Boulud, and Baking Like a Chef.
- I place the madeleine pan on a preheated sheet pan to make it easier to rotate during baking.
- Pure citrus oil is one of my secret weapons for getting a punchy citrus flavor into baked goods — a little goes a long way. I use Boyajian lemon oil and orange oil most often.
- You can store the madeleine batter in the fridge for a couple of days and bake them off in batches. Re-butter and chill the pan between batches (15-20 minutes in the freezer is sufficient).
Citrus & Honey Madeleines
Makes about 16 medium madeleines
- 113g unsalted butter, divided
- 1 tsp lemon or orange zest
- 100g all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 100g (about 2 large) eggs, at room temperature
- 80g granulated sugar
- 20g honey
- 1/8 tsp lemon or orange oil (optional)
- Melt the butter: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. You’re not trying to brown it or drive off any moisture, so don’t let it boil — pull it off when there are still a couple unmelted bits left and let the residual heat finish the job. Once melted, measure out 100g for the batter and add the citrus zest. Transfer the remaining butter to a small bowl and refrigerate to solidify slightly while you finish preparing the rest of the batter (you will use this extra butter to brush the madeleine pan).
- Set up a bain-marie and prep dry ingredients: Fill a medium saucepan with 2-3 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk together thoroughly.
- Warm the eggs and sugar: Once the water is at a gentle simmer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and honey in a medium heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over the simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water) and whisk over the heat constantly for 1-2 minutes until the mixture is smooth and just slightly warmed, about 95F. Turn off the heat and remove the bowl.
- Mix the madeleine batter: Sift the dry ingredients into the egg-sugar mixture in two additions, using a whisk to gently but thoroughly combine. Add the butter-zest mixture in three additions, whisking gently to fully combine after each addition. Whisk in the citrus oil, if using. The batter should be shiny and smooth, with no visible streaks of flour or butter. Use a flexible spatula to fold the batter several times to ensure everything is evenly mixed.
- Transfer the batter to a piping bag (or press a piece of plastic wrap against the batter). Refrigerate at least four hours, or up to 2 days.
- Prepare the madeleine pan: Use the reserved softened butter to brush each well of the madeleine tin. Freeze until ready to bake the madeleines.
- Preheat the oven and fill the molds: Preheat the oven to 425F with a rack in the upper third. Place a large baking sheet on the rack while the oven is preheating.
- When the oven is ready, remove the prepared madeleine pan from the freezer. Fill each well about 3/4 full (24-25 grams in my madeleine pan). Don’t spread the batter to the edges; it will spread on its own in the oven.
- Bake the madeleines: Place the filled pan on the preheated sheet pan and immediately turn down the oven temperature to 400F. Bake until the madeleines are well risen and firm and the edges are golden, about 11-12 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for a couple minutes, then gently pry madeleines out of the tin. Madeleines are absolutely best enjoyed while still warm, about 5-10 minutes after baking; but leftovers will keep in an airtight containers for a couple of days.