Madeleines are classic, small French sponge cakes, with vibrant golden colour, characteristic hump and shell-like shape acquired from being baked in shell-shaped pans.
This version of classic recipe brings vanilla brown butter to the mix. Simple addition with a lot of extra flavour: rich nutty notes coming from browned butter mixed with earthy sweetness coming from vanilla. Vanilla pod is soaked in hot browned butter to release more flavour. Lemon&vanilla sugar is added to the batter to bring out citrusy notes and to further the vanilla flavour of madeleines. This sugar is created by simply rubbing the zest and vanilla seeds with sugar to release the flavour. Madeleines are only lightly spiced with freshly grated nutmeg to bring out the earthiness and richness of vanilla and browned butter.
This little cutie is then brushed with cooked vanilla brown sugar glaze. Using vanilla bean paste in this glaze will bring sweeter notes to vanilla but will also show little speckles of vanilla seeds. This slightly sticky and shiny, caramel and vanilla flavoured glaze dresses up this beautiful cake rather well!
This is a follow up on our post How to bake the perfect Madeleines and Classic Madeleine recipe. We highly recommend you scan through that post before baking your vanilla brown butter madeleines. You can find there explanation on why we are recommending certain steps in this recipe (to achieve the hump and desired texture) and how to prepare baking tin to ensure successful bake. This recipe will work with or without raising agents. Madeleines pictured above and below were baked without raising agents.
Brown butter - when you bring the butter beyond melting point few interesting things happen. In first stage, the water will slowly evaporate (all the hissing and noise). This will leave fats and proteins, which when cooked will start separating. As the proteins cook they will start creating little speckles which will start changing colour (from golden to brown). As proteins cook and brown whisk the butter frequently to avoid burning. It’s up to you how brown your brown butter should be! In our recipes we specify in minutes and also in volume for how long (roughly) to cook the butter to achieve the richness required for the recipe.
Few words on browning the butter in this recipe. Prepare pot with heavy bottom. Let the butter melt freely on low heat. Don’t rush. In first few minutes the butter will melt and then will start creating frothy foam on the surface. After few minutes that foam will subside and milk fat will go to the bottom of the pan. After a minute or so those butter solids will start to toast (brown). The butter will become silent (sign that solids are starting to cook). You don’t need to stir for the first 10 minutes of cooking. In the next 5 minutes you should see the butter browning quicker - watch it closely and stir and scrape the bottom of the pot frequently. After 18-20 minutes your butter should brown fully. Take it off the heat, let cool for 2 minutes. When ready, strain through clean cotton kitchen towel/coffee filter/cheese cloth. That strained, clear liquid is your brown butter. For this recipe we will ask you to place leftover vanilla pod in hot butter. If the liquid cooled off slightly - warm it up for few seconds together with the pod, then take off the heat and cover with the lid. The goal here is to release as much flavour from the pod as possible (heat releases more flavour from spices).
Vanilla Brown Butter Madeleines with Vanilla Brown Sugar Glaze Recipe
Yield: 18 Madeleines
Time: 20min prep + overnight rest + 15min prep + 10min freezing + 10min baking
Tin: Madeleine pan
- 20g caster sugar (for vanilla/lemon sugar)
- 2 tsps lemon zest (zest from two medium lemons)
- 1 juicy and plump vanilla pod
- 160g unsalted butter, will yield 115g brown butter
- 140g all purpose flour, sifted twice
- 1/2 tsp baking powder (optional)
- 1/8 tsp (scant tsp) baking soda (optional)
- 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 3 large eggs (180g)
- 115g caster sugar
- 1/8 tsp coarse sea salt
- 2 tsps (10ml) clear lemon juice
Vanilla Brown Sugar Glaze:
- 50g demerara sugar
- 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
- 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 3 Tbsps (45ml) water
1. Prepare vanilla&lemon sugar: Remove vanilla seeds from the pod and using your finger tips rub together with 20g caster sugar and 2 tsps lemon zest. You want to release the aroma from both vanilla and the zest. Cover and let rest.
2. Prepare vanilla brown butter: Using pot with heavy bottom on low heat melt and then brown the butter. Melt butter slowly, stir only at the end of the process. It should take approx. 18-20 minutes to achieve lovely brown colour (watch not to burn closer to the end). Scrape all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and stir (that’s your nutty flavour!). Take off the heat and cool for 2 minutes. Using clean cotton kitchen towel/cheese cloth/coffee filter strain the butter to achieve clear brown liquid. Place leftover vanilla pod in hot butter (if the butter lost its temperature - warm it up for few seconds together with vanilla pod; press the pod with a spoon few times to release the aroma further). Cover with a lid and let rest.
3. Sift flour together with freshly ground nutmeg and raising agents (if using - the recipe will work both ways - with and without).
4. Prepare fluffy base: Using handheld or stand mixer with whisk attachment beat 3 eggs on low speed for 1 minute. When fluffy, increase the speed to high and start adding 115g sugar - 1 Tablespoon at a time (every 30 seconds). You want to make sure the sugar is fully incorporated. This will take some 4-5 minutes. At the end add salt and mix on high speed for 30 seconds. The egg mixture should be firm and shiny. Now in 3 turns add vanilla&lemon sugar mixing thoroughly between each addition (1 minute). As a last step add 2 tsps lemon juice and mix for few seconds at high speed.
5. Combine: Sift flour to your fluffy base (from Step 4) - you want to do it in 2-3 turns, gently folding in using spatula. Remove vanilla pod from melted butter (squeeze all the butter and any remaining vanilla seeds). Add melted butter in 2 turns to madeleine batter. Make sure all the butter is fully incorporated and there are no residues at the bottom of the bowl or in-between the layers. Cover the bowl tightly with cling film and refrigerate overnight. In a meantime brush the pan with a thin layer of soft butter and place in the freezer. Don’t use flour for dusting.
6. Bake: Preheat oven to 200C (180C fan). When ready to bake take out the batter from the fridge, stir once or twice and let reset uncovered for 10-15 minutes. After that time place batter in the middle of each madeleine shape (in our form ideal quantity was 1 and 1/2 tsp - place by spoon or use piping bag). The batter should cover some 2/3rd of each shape. Don’t spread the batter (intentionally placing the batter in the middle and not spreading will contribute to hump creation and texture aeration). Place the tin with batter into the freezer for 10 minutes. When ready bake for 10 minutes until edges are golden and middle just about set. Remove from the oven and let rest in the tin for 5 minutes then gently remove each cake. Cool on the clean surface. After about 1 hour the texture will set into your well recognised madeleine texture (cakes are fairly soft at start, then set into light, buttery and spongy texture).
7. Prepare vanilla brown sugar glaze: In a small pot mix sugar with nutmeg, coarse sea salt, add water, vanilla bean paste and cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes. The mixture will dissolve, water will evaporate and the glaze will start becoming sticky - that’s the point to take it off the heat. Let it set for 1 minute. Apply few layers when madeleines are still hot. Cake brush works best. If you see the glaze is becoming too sticky or sets too quickly, warm it up slightly.