The madeleine is not a showy French pastry. Consider its humble shape: As standard a version of a seashell that can be imagined; the kind any beachgoer has seen thousands of times without a second thought. The flavor? A pure expression of its ingredients, what the Larousse Gastronomique says is simply sugar, flour, melted butter, and eggs. Set against a case of elaborate viennoiserie, jaunty mille-feuilles, and colorful macarons, the madeleine demures.
But at Le Comptoir, the barely year-old pâtisserie on the ground-floor of Paris’s historic Hotel Ritz, the dainty pastry takes center stage. That’s because the hotel’s head pâtissier (and Netflix’s “Chef in a Truck”) François Perret has kind of a thing for this understated sweet. In the cream-and-peach-hued boutique, I found the madeleine taking many forms: Palm-sized and filled with passionfruit, blackberry, and caramel; a classic version, but made XXL; blitzed into a milkshake. There’s even a madeleine-that’s-not-a-madeleine—an intricate trompe l’oeil entremet made up of mousse, custard, and cake fashioned in the shape of the far more modest treat. Madeleines even adorn the wallpaper (which is now my phone background). I brought home two boxes full of them—perfect keepsakes, oval-shaped and festooned with playful illustrations of César Ritz, Auguste Escoffier, and chef Perret himself.
Back in New York, I’ve recently been served madeleines after both seafood (tiny, tried-and-true), and fried chicken (a cornbread riff). I can’t say I was upset by either. My sweet tooth is subtle at best, and these playful pastries are generally just the right amount of dessert for my taste. This version, adapted from Perret’s recipe, features two types of honey—floral acacia and richer, savory chestnut—and a thin, tart layer of glaze. What an elegant fall delight. The madeleine is ready for its close up.
For the madeleines:
- 1¾ cups pastry flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- ½ cup superfine sugar
- 2 Tbsp. acacia honey
- 1½ tsp. chestnut honey
- 10 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. warm unsalted melted butter, plus more for greasing
For the icing (optional):
- 1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tsp. ascorbic acid
- 2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil
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