This post is a part of my Madeleine series in tribute to this iconic French pastry and all that it means - from madeleine definition, its fascinating history, choosing the right ingredients, madeleine pan, and storage suggestions - you name it!
The madeleine hump or bump is a signature of the authentic madeleine pastry. Let's find out what makes iconic French cakes rise and how to get the perfect humpy madeleines.
But it is unknown if the madeleine bump (la bosse des madeleines in French) was as crucial at the time when the madeleine was born.
Another question is, how did these small buttery cakes become so beloved around the world over time?
Who knows... The answer may be found in its most iconic component: la bosse, which gives these tender shell-like treats their signature texture and round shape on top.
However, it turns out that while many aspects of madeleine baking have changed over time - for example, the weight decreased - one thing still agitates bakers.
As per WNYC,
that dome has become the holy grail of madeleine bakers.
Why? Because the madeleine's bump is a sign of quality: it is linked to well-controlled baking.
So what are the secrets of bumpy madeleines? Or how to avoid flat madeleines when their hump even isn't on the horizon?
Flat madeleines are often a result of using the wrong ingredients. The baking powder is a crucial element of the madeleine recipe because it contributes to forming a pretty bump on top of the madeleines.
You may not know it, but you should be particular with your baking powder: the brand you buy and the expiration date.
You can't underestimate the power of baking powder. However, if you are unsure which kind to get, go with aluminum-free baking powder.
They will turn out just without any weird bitter, "tinny" flavor, so there is no reason not to try switching now since it will improve your madeleine baking too.
It is also essential to respect the expiration date of your baking powder.
Sometimes the product works even when it is past its "best before" date, but you will need to test if your baking powder is still good to use.
The best way to make sure you are using an active baking powder is when it boils vigorously in your saucepan. Add a teaspoonful of baking powder to a ½ cup of boiling water and watch.
If it boils, the powder is still good. However, if there is no reaction, this isn't active anymore.
Although some people say that "baking powder shouldn’t even be in the same room with madeleines," it does work to make a nice hump on top of madeleines.
How to choose the right madeleine mold? What is the best madeleine pan to bake these delicate cakes? Is it a metal or silicone one?
Most pastry chefs choose metal molds over silicone ones. This is because the first ones conduct heat much better than silicone prints.
In the end, you will have better contrast between the inside and the outside of your cakes.
For your madeleines to develop a nice bump, they must be "seized" as soon as you bring them to the oven.
So only metal mold allows you to obtain bakery-quality madeleines. But can you bake cakes in a silicone mold? Yes, and yes.
For example, while French chefs Christophe Michalak and Phillip Conticini are fond of metal madeleine pans, Guy Demarle is in love with his professional quality silicone molds.
One thing is for sure is that the madeleines have a less significant bump with flat-bottomed molds than with classic molds.
While it's up to you which of the available madeleine molds suits your needs, many other factors contribute to obtaining a nice pillowy hump.
Filling your madeleine pan
To give your madeleines a nice bump (la belle bosse in French), the degree of filling of the madeleine mold must be correctly assessed.
The result will vary depending on the cavities' shape, width, and depth.
For example, narrow and deep indentations should only be ¾ filled.
Conversely, if your mold consists of more significant and higher cavities, you will need to fill them a bit more.
But if you fill the pan cavities to the brim, you will have trouble with the bump formation. The dough will overflow, and the madeleines will be flattened.
This won't impact the taste of your cakes, but it would be a shame if their appearance spoils the taste.
The best way to fill up the pan's cavities is with about ¾ full. It is about a good tablespoon of the batter.
In general, a couple of test batches will allow you to evaluate your madeleine pan and adapt its filling accordingly.
Pipe the batter with a pastry bag, as Sebastien Rouxel and Roger Pizey suggest, but it might be easier to spoon it. Then, just choose your way of filling the molds.
What makes madeleines rise?
The answer is short: the thermal shock is the main force that makes madeleines rise and form the bump!
Thermal shock is created between the temperature of the cold batter and the oven's heat. The colder your batter, the greater thermal shock.
Bringing a cold madeleine pan filled with the cold batter to the hot oven can guarantee that the famous bump will form and never fall.
You should take advantage of this recipe and make sure that you refrigerate the batter overnight, or even better, for 24 hours.
For those who don’t have time to wait 12 to 24 hours before enjoying their delicious dessert, the chilling time of 1 to 2 hours is a must. It is essential to optimize the formation of the hump.
Besides that, there is a great tip from David Lebovitz, who also recommends freezing the prepared madeleine mold before filling it with the batter.
After chilling the madeleine batter, fill the mold cavities and refrigerate the pan (filled with batter) for one hour.
Once again, if you are in a hurry, you can limit the time to at least 15 to 30 minutes or even omit this small step.
Next, bring the cold mold with batter to the hot oven.
French chef Christophe Felder and the blogger and juror for Best Pastry Chef, Madam Mercotte, advise to place a madeleine pan on a baking rack in the middle of the oven and not on a baking sheet.
It allows the perfect circulation of heat around the madeleine mold.
Philippe Conticini, a renowned chef and owner of several successful patisseries in France, says that you should put a cold pan onto the very hot baking sheet.
So, there are two contrary opinions on where to place the madeleine pan. Which one to prefer?
Heat distribution seems essential since you look for vertical baking to make the madeleines rise. So, if a baking sheet is used, the heat won't rise properly.
Everything should be tested and re-tested, but what is for sure is that Conticini's madeleines have respectable bumps.
Also, there is a tip the kitchen gods whisper: it's never, ever worth opening your oven while you are baking madeleines, especially during the first minutes!
Why? Because the variation in temperature could prevent madeleines from puffing up.
To preheat the oven and even heat it for another 10 minutes is essential to create a thermal shock once you bring your madeleines.
Lowering the oven temperature during baking is also crucial to forming a beautiful bump on top of these little cakes.
Let's look at a few pastry chefs who have their own way of doing it.
French chef Philippe Conticini bakes his madeleines in the oven at 435 °F/225 °C for 6 minutes and then decreases the oven temperature to 355 °F/180 °C and bakes for another 5 to 6 minutes.
Pierre Herme’s version is a bit different. First, he starts to bake madeleine cakes in the oven at 425 °F/220 °C for 5 minutes, then lowers the oven temperature to 390 °F/200 °C and bakes them for ten more minutes.
Cédric Grolet advises baking madeleines in the oven at 410 °F/210 °C. After 3 minutes of baking, he rotates the mold and bakes another 3 minutes.
Then he turns off the oven for 1 minute and turns it on again (always at 410 °F/210 °C), and bake for 5 minutes longer.
School of Alaine Ducasse suggests baking madeleines at 425 °F/220 °C for 3 minutes, then switching off the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. The madeleines will get that famous hump on top.
Next, you should turn the oven to 320 °F/160 °C for the other 3 to 4 minutes.
Madeleines are delicate pastry that needs to be treated with care. Whatever temperature regimen is chosen, the madeleines should be baked until golden brown.
Give it a try
Now it's your turn to find the best way of baking madeleines.
It is important to note that the outcome will vary depending on your experience, what kind of oven you have access to, the quality of the madeleine ingredients, and the madeleine pan you choose.
Ovens are different. A conventional oven produces more consistent results than one with a convection fan. Excessive ventilation can deform your madeleines.
Often, you must test and adjust the oven temperature for the best results.
It is also recommended to check the oven temperature with an instant-read oven thermometer before your madeleine baking.
You can't just make well-domed, soft madeleines on the fly at the last minute.
You should understand their ingredients and how they work - choose an appropriate pan for this delicate dessert that requires patience to perfect.
Then spend time preparing with care taken throughout every baking step until you get it right.
Also, download the FREE FAQ Guide to perfect madeleines.
And finally, here is the best madeleine recipe if you want to succeed. It has been tested and re-tested so many times that it works every single time from day one.
If you want to try twists on classic madeleines, try the recipes below. Happy baking!