Brown Butter Madeleines are the perfect little snack for your afternoon tea. The buttery rich sponge with a nutty undertone is then dipped into an espresso glaze and sprinkled with chopped toasted walnuts. I don’t think you will stop at one!
French Madeleines are one of my favourite snacks to make. They suit all tastes. Keep them simple or jazz them up with a glaze and nuts for a more elevated approach. My simple Lemon Poppy Seed Madeleines, Classic Orange Madeleines, are wonderfully flavourful and my Triple Chocolate Madeleines go all out on the wow factor.
Today, these French little treats are made with a twist. Instead of regular melted butter, they're made using brown butter which imparts the most beautiful deep nutty undertones to the batter. The espresso glaze compliments the sponge perfectly and the chopped walnuts accentuate the nuttiness from the brown butter. They are tiny little morsels of perfection - literally two bites and it’s gone. Eaten with your coffee at breakfast or during the afternoon is how the French typically enjoys their classic Madeleines.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Pantry ingredients. Make these Madeleines last minute as all the ingredients are pantry/fridge staples. No extra shopping trip needed.
- Amazing Texture. Made using a genoise sponge, the result is a light and airy buttery sponge in the middle with crispy edges.
- Prep ahead.. Whilst these can be made and baked on the same day, they are actually better if the batter is made the day before and refrigerated. The batter relaxes and takes on more of the flavouring meaning that you can wake and be eting these within 15 minutes!
As mentioned above, the ingredients needed for these Brown Butter Madeleines are all pantry or fridge staples. They can be pulled out at the last minute so you can make these French Madeleines with little notice and further on I provide some alternative ingredients.
Brown Butter Madeleines
- Butter - Unsalted butter so that we can control the amount of salt in the recipe. In the step-by-step instructions I'll teach you how to brown the butter for that all important depth of flavour.
- Eggs - 2 large eggs at room temperature. If you've forgotton to take them out of the fridge a head of time, don't worry. Simply submerge the eggs into a bowl of warm water for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Sugar - I specify caster sugar in the recipe as I find it dissolves into the eggs during whipping, that bit quicker. But if you don't have any on hand then don't worry, use granulated instead. Golden caster or granulated sugar or good alternatives too.
- Vanilla extract and milk- Vanilla extract adds the perfect sweetness and flavour. Vanilla bean paste can also be used - but only use 1 teaspoon as it is more intense. And the milk loosens up the batter just enough.
- Plain flour - Don’t use self-raising flour. The tender crumb of the Madeleines comes from the small amount of baking powder and aeration of the whipped eggs. These two plus the thermal shock created by the heat difference is enough to cause the Madeleines to rise.
- Baking powder - Just a touch to help the sponge become light and aerated.
- Salt - Use fine salt. Only add if using unsalted butter.
- Powdered icing sugar. Sift it before using to make a lump free glaze.
- Espresso powder and hot water. Espresso powder or coffee granules can be used - they just need to be dissolve in hot water before adding to the glaze.
- Butter and vanilla extract. A little butter helps give shine to the glaze once it's dried and the vanilla flavour adds another layer of flavour.
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
I've provided plenty of process images so that you can see visually what the batter should look like every step of the way. Whilst madeleines in themselves are relatively easy to make, the signature hump that defines them requires a few pointers to achieve. Follow along for plenty of useful tips.
Make the brown butter madeleines batter
1. Brown the butter. Turn normal melted butter into a thing of nutty goodness in one simple step. Add the butter to a saucepan set over medium heat and allow the butter to melt. Once melted, the butter will start to foam and bubble (Image 1) and this is the point that the milk solids have separated from the fats and they'll start to caramelise on the base of the saucepan. Watch the yellow butter turn golden and then brown.
Once the butter is browned, take the pan off the stove and pour it into a bowl. The butter can go from brown to burnt quite quickly. Set the butter aside to come to room temperature- not to the point where it solidifies. We still want it melted...just not hot! (Image 2)
NOTE: set a tablespoon of butter aside - it is going to be used to brush the pans with later on.
TIP: Brown butter bits
Once the brown butter is poured into a bowl, make sure to scrape out all the brown bits that are stuck to the bottom of the saucepan. These bits are where all the nutty, rich flavour is held. The aroma of brown butter is enticing and intoxicating.
2. Whip the eggs and sugar. To create a light and airy genoise sponge - the eggs and sugar need to be whipped until pale and airy and a ribbon of mixture forms when the stand mixer whisk is lifted up. (Image 3)
Add the flavouring at this point - in this recipe, vanilla extract will add to the rich flavour of the brown butter. (Image 4)
3. Sift dry ingredients into the batter. I'm all about shortcuts and sifting the dry ingredients into separate bowls feels like dirtying another bowl for no reason. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt directly over the top of the whipped eggs.
Then gently fold in those ingredients so as not to lose all the lovely whipped air in the eggs. (Image 5)
4. Pour in the melted butter. Pour the room temperature melted butter into the batter making sure to scrape in any brown bits that have sunken to the bowl, and fold the butter into the batter. (Image 6 & 7)
The batter needs to rest and chill in the refrigerator. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge. Now you can chill it for a minimum of 2 hours, but ideally, it rests overnight. The flavours intensify, the gluten relaxes and it makes for the best chance to obtain that hump!
TIP: Madeleines for breakfast?! Yes, please!! By preparing the batter the day before and refrigerating overnight the next day, you'll have fresh madeleines in 15 minutes or under! A great option for breakfast or quick afternoon tea.
TIP: Step closer to achieving that hump. Place Madeleines pans in the refrigerator along with the batter. Cold pans help with the 'hump’ formation.
Prepare for baking
5. Prepare the Madeleine pans. To make sure that the madeleines batter doesn't stick to the pans when they bake, brush with the tablespoon of brown butter set aside earlier. Make sure to brush all the scallop designs and the edges of each scallop. Then flour lightly and tap out any excess. (Image 9 & 10)
Fill pans and bake. Remove the batter from the fridge and give it quick stir. Spoon batter into the deepest part of each scallop. Don't level it off or pat it down (the heat of the oven will do this. (Image 11 & 12) Pop the pans back into the fridge for 15 minutes whilst preheating the oven to temperature.
TIP: To ensure that I have 24 equal-sized Madeleines I use a level tablespoon of batter in each depression. Alternatively, you can use a cookie scoop, but as I don’t own any in the correct size, I can’t advise on this approach.
Bake the madeleines for 8 to 10 minutes- but everyone's oven runs differently so keep an eye on them. My oven has a hot spot, so I tend to rotate the pans at the 6-minute mark. They are done when lightly browned around the edges, the middle puffed up and springs back when gently pressed.
6. Turn out onto wire rack. Once baked, set the madeleines pan onto a wire rack for two minutes to cool slightly, then tap the pan to dislodge the madeleines. This usually does the trick to release them. If you find they need a helping hand, then run a butter knife around the edge and this will pop them right out. (Image 13 & 14)
Browned Butter Madeleines are delicious when sprinkled with powdered icing sugar fresh out of the oven and still warm. However, they are exceptional with the addition of an espresso glaze and chopped walnuts.
How to glaze Madeleines
1. Make the glaze. Add the hot water to the espresso powder and give it a stir to combine thoroughly. Then add the coffee, vanilla extract and melted butter to the icing sugar and give it a thorough whisk until it's smooth. I love the smell of this glaze! (Just try not to lick your finger when making it!) (Image 15 & 16)
2. Dip the shell side. Now for the best bit...decoration time! Dip the pretty shell side down into the glaze and lift to let the excess drip off. Set it onto a wire rack and decorate with the chopped hazelnuts. I dip the full side of the shell but you don't have to, you can dip just half of it as a pretty alternative. (Image 17 & 18)
Variations / Substitutions
- A boozy kick: I love the idea of adding the well rounded flavours of Bourbon to these Madeleines. Kate from Wood & Spoon Blog, has done exactly that with her Brown Butter Bourbon Madeleines. They sound irresistable! Replace the milk with Bourbon.
- Espresso glaze: If the taste of coffee isn't your thing, then not to worry, cover the Madeleines in a sweet and tasty vanilla bean glaze instead. Simply omit the espresso and, swap the vanilla extract for vanilla bean paste and replace the hot water with milk.
- Walnuts: Swap out the walnuts with hazelnuts or pecans for a wonderful alternative. Make sure that those nuts are toasted for added flavour and chopped finely too.
- Weigh your flour. Use digital scales for an accurate measurement. Too much flour will lead to a dry sponge.
- Slowly pour in the melted butter. Adding in the melted butter too quickly into the whipped eggs will cause them to deflate.
- Refrigerate the madeleines pan. Doing this helps the madeleines rise in the oven.
- Don’t over bake the sponge. If you do, you’ll end up with dry little rocks!
Frequently asked questions
Firstly, you may not have whipped the eggs and sugar enough at the start. Secondly, you may have knocked out too much air when mixing in the flour or folding in the butter. Or lastly, you might have flattened out the batter when you filled the moulds. If this happens, then don’t worry, you haven’t ruined them – they will taste the same, just possibly a little denser. More reason to try them again!
If you didn't use a digital scale to weigh out your ingredients, you may have scooped in more flour which creates a drier batter.
Also if the madeleines are slightly over baked, because they are so small in size, this extra bake time will dry out the better.
It's all in the ingredients. Madeleines use whole eggs and baking powder and are baked in a shell-shaped mould. Financiers on the other hand only use the egg whites and no leavener, relying on the plentiful egg whites and their aeration to create a light sponge. They are typically baked in oval or rectangular shapes but can also be baked in muffin pans too.
If you're unable to get your hands on a madeleines pan then you can at a pinch use a cupcake pan. Ensure that you go through the same process of preparing the pan by greasing each mould well, dusting them with flour and refrigerating.
I have never tried baking them in a cupcake tin so I cannot guarantee the signature hump, but if the lack of a Madeleines pan is what is stopping you from trying these out, I say GO for it. The taste will be identical! Let me know how you go if you do.
How to store and freeze
To store: French Madeleines are best eaten the same day that they are made, ideally within a couple of hours. They are at their freshest and fluffiest and melt in your mouth this way.
You can store them in an airtight container for 2-3 days at room temperature. Wait for the glaze to set before placing them in the container.
To freeze: Yes, they can be frozen if need be. Wait for them to cool fully, wrap in baking paper and then place in an airtight container and freeze for up to 1 month. To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight, then allow to come to room temperature prior to glazing and serving.
I tested freezing these and found that the sponge does become a bit denser after it defrosts. A quick blast in the microwave for 10 to 20 seconds warms them up which makes a difference. To be honest, Madeleines don’t last long enough to be frozen in my household. With three children they are gone overnight!
Tools you’ll need
- Madeleines Pan: To get those signature shaped design.
- Stand mixer with whisk attachment: The eggs and sugar need a good amount of whipping to increase their volume, and a stand mixer does this effortlessly. Handheld beaters can be used if necessary.
- Pastry brush: To be able to get melted butter into all the nooks of the Madeleine pan. It will save you later when they haven't stuck to the base...trust me.
More French recipes that you may like
If you tried these Brown Butter Madeleines or any other recipe on my website, please let me know how you go in the comments below. I love hearing from you. Also, please leave a star rating whilst you're there!
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This post was originally published in November 2019 but has been updated with new photos and new content.
Brown Butter Espresso Madeleines Recipe
- 115 g unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 100 g caster sugar
- 15 ml milk
- 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 110 g plain flour (all-purpose), plus extra for dusting
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- 1 tablespoon espresso powder
- 30 ml hot water
- 180 g powdered icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 50 g walnuts, toasted and chopped finely
- Brown the butter. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt your butter. Continue to heat until the butter foams up and the melted butter below turns golden and then to a golden brown colour and has a nutty fragrance. This takes about 4-5 minutes. Note, the butter turns very quickly from golden to burnt. Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl, and cool to room temperature. Set aside 1 tablespoon worth of butter, this will be used to brush the pans with later on.
- Whip the eggs and sugar. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, place the eggs and sugar and beat on medium for 5 minutes until pale and thick. Add the flavouring. Decrease the speed to low and add the milk and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
- Sift dry ingredients into the batter. Sift into the bowl the flour, baking powder and salt and mix on low until a few flour streaks remain.
- Pour in the melted butter. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and slowly pour in the melted butter. Make sure to scrape in all the brown bits that will have settled at the bottom of the butter bowl. Gently fold in the butter with the rubber spatula ensuring that you don't knock out all the air.Refrigerate Batter. Cover the batter with cling film and refrigerate for 2-3 hours or ideally overnight.
- Prepare the Madeleine pans. 30 minutes before baking, pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Using the brown butter that you set aside earlier, melt in the microwave if it has solidified. Using a pastry brush, grease all the moulds of your Madeleines pans with the melted butter. Lightly dust each mould with flour and tap out any excess. Place the pans in the refrigerator until the oven has come to temperature and you are ready to fill them with the batter.Fill pans and bake. Once the oven is at temperature, remove the batter from the fridge and one Madeleine pan. Fill the deepest part of each well with 1 level tablespoon of batter. Do not level the batter out. Remove the other pan from the fridge and fill it in the same way. Place madeleines pans in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, check after 8 minutes and rotate the pans. They are ready when the ‘humps’ have risen, and they‘re browned on the edges.
- Turn out onto wire rack. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for a couple of minutes before removing them from the pans and allowing them to cool. (Tip: give the pans a little jiggle, and they should pop out. If they stick, run a knife around the edges to loosen them.)
- Make the glaze. Add the hot water to the espresso powder and mix until the coffee is combined. Add the icing sugar, vanilla extract, and two tablespoons of coffee in a separate bowl and whisk the ingredients until a smooth and drippy glaze forms. If the mixture is too thick, add a teaspoon at a time of milk (or more coffee if you want a stronger taste) and whisk till combined. Or, if too thin, you can thicken it by adding a ¼ cup of icing sugar and whisking until the desired consistency has been reached. The icing mixture should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Dip the shell side. Dip the madeleine's shell side into the espresso glaze until coated, and then dip the bottom half of the madeleine into the chopped walnuts. Place on a wire rack until set. Serve immediately.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.