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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.

Yield: makes 23
Time: 24 hours 55 minutes

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Into a large bowl, sift the flour and baking powder and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs with the sugar and honeys until combined. Gradually mix in the sifted flour-baking powder mixture, then, with the mixer running, add the melted butter. Switch off the mixer to avoid overbeating. Scrape the batter into an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 2 days.
  2. When you are ready to bake the madeleines, lightly brush a standard-sized madeleine pan with butter. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. Fill each of the pan’s indentations with 2 tablespoons of the batter (depending on the size of your pan, you may need to bake in batches). Transfer to the oven, close the door, then immediately lower the temperature to 325°F. Bake until the tops of the madeleines form small humps and are evenly golden, 10–12 minutes. Cool slightly in the pan before unmolding, then transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. (You may serve the madeleines the day they are baked, but their texture improves after resting a day; once cooled, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours.)
  4. If desired, the following day, ice the madeleines: Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  5. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, ascorbic acid, olive oil, and ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon of cool water. Brush the icing all over the madeleines, then arrange them on the lined baking sheet, fluted-side-up. Bake until the icing is dry to the touch, 2–3 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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