If you haven’t come across them before, madeleines are light little sponge cakes in the shape of a shell. They originate from the Lorraine region of France, and take their shape from the tin they are baked in. I make this recipe when the lavender comes into flower, which is usually around early June at the Mill when the weather has been good, but you can use dried lavender if you want to make this all year round.
The madeleines here rely on beaten egg whites to make them rise and do not contain any raising agents, so fill your moulds slightly closer to the top than if following a recipe containing baking powder. You can substitute lemon zest for orange zest if you want a slightly sharper citrus flavour.
Bear in mind that because these madeleines are made with chestnut flour and are gluten-free, they have a slightly coarser texture and don’t rise as much as those made with finely milled white flour. The flavour pay-off with the naturally sweet chestnut flour paired with the lavender and orange infused butter provides an unusual twist on a classic.
Makes 14-15 madeleines (in a 7cm mould)
Recipe from “A Handful of Flour – Recipes from Shipton Mill”. Photo by Jonathan Gregson.
Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas 4. Grease a madeleine tin (you may need two depending on how many moulds yours has).
Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat with the lavender, orange zest and vanilla. Once the butter has melted, remove from the heat and leave it to cool, allowing the flavours to infuse while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the chestnut flour. Combine with a hand whisk.
In a separate large bowl beat the egg whites with an electric hand whisk until they form stiff peaks. Fold in the sugar and flour using a spatula until you have a satiny mixture. Lastly, fold in the melted, infused butter.
Spoon the mixture into the madeleine moulds, nearly to the top but leaving a little space for the madeleines to rise. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until pale golden and springy to the touch.
Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and finish the cooling on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar to serve. These will keep for 2-3 days, stored in an airtight container.