My first encounter with madeleines was in the form of a Christmas gift; a handful of chocolate chip madeleines in a little plastic bag tied shut with a golden string. They were light and delicate, at first crumbling and then melting in your mouth. The second time I ate them they were orange flavoured and warm, straight out the oven and dusted in a Christmas spiced sugar. It was part of a little petit fours plate, served to diners with their coffee and they were so delicious that diners often asked if there were any spare. So it is no wonder that for me madeleines and Christmas just go together!
I don’t think at any time are nuts more eaten than at Christmas. And what can be more Chrismtassy than the beautiful dark green, with that hint of red and pink of a pistachhio? Of course as a Lebanese I am particularly partial to pistachios, after they all feature in many of our desserts and sweets. I often use pistachio paste rather than grinding pistachios. Pistachio paste is wonderfully diverse – I’ve used it to flavour sponges, souffles and ice cream. It is also much more economical and time saving than buying pistachios and then grinding them yourself. Good pistachio paste gives a deep, rich pistachio flavour and should have a luscious dark green colour, resembling moss.
There are probably as many madeleine recipes as there are trees in the wood. However the recipe from the Leith’s cookbook is particularly delicious in that it uses browned butter. The browned butter gives it a nutty flavour, adding a wonderful depth and complements the pistachio flavour. The Leith’s recipe is for a simple, unflavoured madeleines but can be adapted beautifully. I’ve done this here by adding pistachio paste to flavour the madeleines as well as chopped pistachios for a bit of texture and extra flavour. Light, airy and moorish. Bake and east straight out of the tin.
Buy good quality pistachio paste otherwise your madeleines may end up tasting of marzipan.
Experiment with flavours. Omit the pistachios and pistachio and add an extra 20 grams of butter. You could make lemon or orange by adding their zest or adding different types of chopped nuts.
Prepare in advance. You can make the batter up to 24 hours in advance and store in the fridge.
Rush the resting time. The flour in the starch will swell and results a lighter and more tender madeleine. A chilled batter also means it is easier to spoon into the tins.
Overfill your madeleine tin otherwise you end up with madeleine monstrosities. Each mould should only be around 3/4 full.