Browned butter is, without doubt, one of my favourite ingredients. The smell it creates is indecently good, and the complexity and depth of flavour it adds to any dish is a wonderful thing indeed.
The thing is though, I've always treated it as a distinct flavour. Like lemon or coffee, you add browned butter to give browned butter flavour, and so I'd never really thought much beyond throwing in a spent vanilla pod while you were making it. But when a fellow baker recently suggested combining it with bay leaves it was like a whole new set of doors suddenly opened. Bay-infused browned butter?! Well, that's just genius!
Retiring to the kitchen as soon as a busy working week allowed, I wanted to bake something simple that really emphasised this distinct combination, and could think of nothing better than the classic French madeleine. Eaten hot from the oven, with a bowl of Seville orange custard for dipping on the side, the aroma was just heavenly, and the bay provided a nice savoury edge to these sweet little treats. A guaranteed crowd pleaser it's impossible to stop at one, and you'll likely be left wondering where bay-infused browned butter has been all your life...
BAY-INFUSED BROWNED BUTTER MADELEINES (recipe inspired by Lemonpi)
For the madeleines*:
- 160 g butter
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 25 g honey
- 4 eggs
- 150 g caster sugar
- 20 g light brown sugar
- 160 g plain flour
- 10 g baking powder
For the Seville orange custard*:
- 125 ml milk
- 125 ml cream
- ½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped
- zest of 1 Seville orange, in strips
- 2 egg yolks
- 20 g caster sugar
To make the madeleine batter, combine the butter and bay leaves in a saucepan over medium heat and simmer until browned. Remove from heat, stir in the honey and leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile, place the eggs and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high speed for around 5 minutes, until tripled in volume. Fold through the still-warm butter mixture (remove the bay leaves first), followed by the sifted flour and baking powder. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the batter for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 200°C and butter* a small madeleine tray. Spoon a heaped teaspoon of batter into each mould so that it is mostly filled. Bake for 8-9 minutes, until the edges are golden and the centre is domed and just-baked through.
For the orange custard, combine the milk, cream, vanilla and zest in a small saucepan and warm through over low heat until just beginning to steam. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Return the mixture to the heat and bring almost to the boil. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a heatproof bowl until pale and thick (ribbon stage). Slowly whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture then place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir with a wooden spoon for a few minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat, cover the custard directly with cling film and refrigerate until ready to use.
Serve the just-baked madeleines piled high on a plate with a bowl of Seville orange custard, for dipping, on the side.
Makes 40-45 small madeleines.
** Madeleine recipe adapted from Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding by Justin Gellatly.
** Custard recipe adapted from You're All Invited by Margot Henderson
** Most madeleine recipes recommend buttering and flouring the moulds, but I found when using a non-stick mould that butter alone gave a nicer finish.