Time for Reflection and Cheese Madeleines

It’s the weekend following Thanksgiving, and time for turkey soup. This year’s version includes shallot, garlic, assorted veggies, farro, and of course turkey. Wholesome and light, the perfect prescription for over indulgence.

Such a moderate and sensible approach wasn’t destined to last long. It only took a moment of reflection, also left-over from Thanksgiving, to realize the soup would need something else to go along with it. From there, it didn’t take long to zero in on one of my old favorites, something that I haven’t had a chance to make for a while.

In no time, I was deep in cheese madeleine territory. While the soup burbled away, I pulled out my recipe and got going. I have had a soft spot in my heart for the French shell-shaped cookie ever since I eyed a barely used madeleine baking tin at a garage sale—long before their silicone counterpart hit the marketplace.madeleine tin
They only take a few minutes to prepare and about the same amount of time to bake. Since the original cookie often relies on an egg-sugar emulsion, I have taken some liberties with the cheese low-sugar version, but they are still kissed with butter.madeleine in shell
Sweet or savory, there’s something fleeting and magical about these light well-constructed pillows of bliss. Soft but crispy, solid but ethereal, mild but elusively rich… I’m beginning to rant like Proust.

Madeleines and Turkey Soup
Madeleines and Turkey Soup

What wouldn’t taste better with a few of these?

Cheese Madeleines

Lacking madeleine baking molds, substitute mini muffin pans or tiny tartlet molds.

¼ cup semolina flour or fine polenta, sifted
½ cup cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
pinch nutmeg
1 egg, room temperature
½ cup milk, room temperature
1 tbsp. melted butter

1 – 2 tbsp. melted butter for molds

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray madeleine molds with baking spray and then brush lightly with melted butter.
  2. Sift dry ingredients, whisk to blend, and toss in the cheese and nutmeg to thoroughly coat.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk the egg well and slowly whisk in the milk. Gently stir in the dry ingredients combining well; slowly stir in the butter until it is all incorporated.
  4. Spoon tablespoonfuls of the batter into molds, about ¾’s full, and bake 12 minutes or until they begin to brown. Using tip of knife, release from mold and turn it over. Allow to cool briefly before moving to rack to cool. Wipe out molds, brush again lightly with butter, and repeat. Yield: 10 to 12 large madeleines.

Mad about Madeleines

madeleines and coffee resizeLike everyone else in the country, my life is finally getting back to normal after early December’s subzero weather.  Although the holiday season is certainly not ‘normal’, at least the major forces in my world are getting back on track.    

Onemadeleine pan of the first items on my agenda was to jump into the holiday baking.  As a prelude to that, I pulled out my old madeleine pan (for new nonstick version check out the Fox Run Madeleine Pan) and baked off a batch of these sweet treats.  

 I’m with Proust and his effusive recollections of the delights of  a madeleine shell over a cup of tea:  

madeleine shells

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin.
―Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

Yes, these are the things of which memories are made.  Happy holidays.   


Often made with ground nuts, I prefer this simple version.  


  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour, sifted
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest, or 1 tsp. ginger, freshly grated


  1. Beat the eggs well and slowly add the sugar until mixture is thick and fluffy.  Add the flour.
  2.  Gently stir in the butter and grated lemon or ginger until completely blended.  Chill if time permits, about 2 hours.
  3.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter the shells well or spray them well with oil.  
  4.  Scoop about 1-1/2 tsp. batter into each mold.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.   Remove from oven and let cool on rack about 5 minutes then remove from pans.  Wipe out pan and continue.  Yield:  about 30.
  5.  Dust with confectioners’ sugar.  Best eaten the same day. 

 Chocolate variation:  Add 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa with flour; instead of lemon peel use 2 oz. grated semi-sweet chocolate.