These little gems are best eaten shortly after they come out of the oven, but the batter can wait in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake and this is why I love them for entertaining. Typically served with coffee or tea, these little ‘cakes’ are beautiful on any cookie tray. You can even bake them ahead of time and freeze them. If you choose this route, let them come to room temperature first and then dust them with powdered sugar before serving.
Some of my other favorite holiday baking recipes are Buche de Noel; Chocolate Rosemary Tart; Holiday Pumpkin Roll; Apricot Orange Pound Cake; Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies; Pear Frangipane Tart; White Chocolate, Cranberry, Pecan Bars; Snickerdooles; and Lemon Curd Cheesecake.
I used to make these for the girls as an afternoon snack on winter days. The initial recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan, my hero, in Baking with Julia and then was first published in Sugar & Salt: The Blue Book.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus a little extra for the madeleine pan
1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 teaspoons lemon zest; about 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter 12-cookie madeleine pan generously. Sift the flour and 1 tablespoon of sugar onto parchment paper or waxed paper and set aside. Combine the sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl and immediately begin to whisk with either the whisk attachment or a hand-held mixer until the color has lightened considerably; the volume has tripled and the mixer forms ribbons on the surface for 10 seconds or so. Add vanilla extract, lemon extract and lemon zest and whisk briefly. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the sifted flour and sugar in thirds. Add a little bit of the batter to the melted butter and gently fold, then fold the butter mixture into the rest of the batter in the mixing bowl. Do this ever so gently. Rest the batter in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Spoon half of the batter into prepared pan. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until the cookies are spongy in the middle. Remove from pan and set on a cooling rack. Wipe the cookie pan clean, butter again generously, spoon rest of batter into the forms and bake again for 5 to 6 minutes.
Makes 24 cookies