34. Chinese Egg Yolk Sponge Madeleines

What do you do with all of those egg yolks where you’re making macaroons? (Or in my case breaking an entire batch of macaroons??) Well I suggest you make some Chinese Egg Yolk Sponge Cakes, in the shape of Madeleines (of course, any excuse to use my favourite new tin!)

Chinese Egg Yolk Sponge Madeleines

I’ve eaten a lot of sponge cake in China and sampled a few egg yolk sponges at my favourite Chinese Bakery, Bread Point, in town. It’s not half as eggy as it sounds. In fact they are a lovely light and moist sponge cake. Almost like a Madeira Cake but a bit richer.

Up close and personal with Madeleines

In a bid to use up everything that I have in my fridge and cupboards I went on a baking spree. Baking 3 types of cake simultaneously, for my Mam’s birthday. I succeeded to use up EVERYTHING, and then went for a run in the rain. (I have to keep squeezing them in every chance I get!) What an achievement for a rainy Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend. Although I forgot to actually bake anything regal or jubilee related.

As I had used up the egg whites having another bash at macaroons I had 3 egg yolks left over to create the Egg Yolk Sponge Madeleines.

I started by whisking the egg yolks and whole egg together with my food processor using the whisk attachment for about 5 minutes until they became thicker and lemony coloured. (You could of course use a hand held electric whisk instead, I just used this as I already had it to hand from macaroon making…) This creates a lovely warm yellow liquid with all those egg yolks in it!

Fluffy and yellow and frothy

While the mixer is running, add the sugar gradually to the eggs and continue to whisk the mixture for about 10 minutes. While the mixer is running if you have your hands free, you can then use the time to measure out and  sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.

Breaking the rules and adding the orange zest to the flour

Admittedly I erred from the recipe at this point. I added the zest of an entire orange to my dry ingredients rather than folding them into the wet mix… I don’t think this made the slightest bit of difference, other than I could stir the flour more vigorously without the fear of knocking all of that wonderful air out of the eggy batter. I also couldn’t be bothered to juice my orange, so took the lazy option of adding some lemon juice that I had in the fridge already. Hopefully this added to the citrussyness of the sponge.
I then continued folding in the orange extract and lemon juice. I was also in a hurry so didn’t bother to sift the flour into the mix, but rather opted for the ‘all in’ method. Dumping all of the flour into the egg fluff and folding it in with a metal spoon.
I read somewhere that bakers are divided on this sponge making method. Some say to fold in a third of the flour at a time with a metal spoon to keep in all that lovely air in the whisked eggs. Others say put it all in, in one go, to minimise the amount of folding you have to do, but don’t drop the mixture into the eggs from a height as this will knock out the air. I have tried both methods and I think I have to agree with the latter. And it was quicker too! Whichever sponge making method you prefer the golden rule is always do not stir or beat the mixture and fold with a metal spoon to cut through the mixture. What do you prefer??

Folding in the boiling water one Russian Doll cup at a time

Then last but not least all that is left is to fold in the boiling water carefully to produce a fluffy and luxuriously thick batter.
I found it much easier to squirt the batter into the Madeleine tin last time and have now perfected my method…

Step 1. Carefully empty the batter into a plastic sandwich bag opened over a measuring jug. The jug helps to support the bag and you can fold the bag down over the edges. I also balanced the bowl onto the wide jug neck so to reduce how far the batter had to travel (and preserve the air content!). it also means you can get the spatula out and encourage the rest of the batter into the bag.

The jug helps to support the bag and you can fold the bag down over the edges. I also balanced the bowl onto the wide jug neck so to reduce how far the batter had to travel (and preserve the air content!). it also means you can get the spatula out and encourage the rest of the batter into the bag.

Step 2. Clip the sandwich bag shut with a peg or tie a knot in it so all the batter falls into one corner of the bag. (Hey presto an improvised and cheap cheap piping bag!)

Step 3. Snip the corner off the ‘piping bag’ and you’re good to go! Squeeze the bag gently to release an even flow of batter into your pre greased tin and use your spare hand to put your finger over the ‘nozzle’ when you have piped enough mixture into each portion of the Madeleine tin. Less mess and no waste!

I  found this much easier and quicker than trying to spoon the batter into the tin as it went everywhere and left lots of mess on the tin too. Don’t forget to grease your Madeleine tin well (I love my quick release spray!) and only fill each Madeleine well one third of the way up so they have room to expand. If you over fill, they will spill out and burn.

Egg Yolk Madeleines ready to bake – look at those flecks of orange!

Leave the tray on a flat surface to settle and let gravity do its job. The mixture will spread and level out, filling all of the shapely Madeleine grooves. You probably won’t need to put as much batter into each well as you think, but this allows you the option of topping up any wells that look a little low.

Baked Egg Yolk Madeleines

Bake the at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 10 to 15 minutes. (You can make one large cake with this recipe but you will need to bake it for 60-65 minutes)
After allowing them to cool for a couple of minutes in the tray, turn the Madeleine tray over onto a wire rack and let the Madeleines fall out. Leave them to cool completely on the wire rack and re grease your Madeleine tray and pipe another set of Madeleines into the wells. This recipe is enough for a batch of 24 Madeleines. If you have any problems getting them back out of the tin, gently coax the edges with your fingers or while the tin is upside down gently tap it. They will eventually pop out, unless the tin hasn’t been greased enough…

Cooling down nicely – Egg Yolk Madeleines

I really love these cakes so zesty and sweet. Having baked them in the Madeleine shape, they have a wonderfully light and soft centre with a golden crust, with a nice bite to it. Not dry or tough in the slightest. I will be making these again for sure.  They are traditionally baked as round cakes or one large cake but I quite like how portable and hand sized the Madeleines are easy to eat on the move with a good cuppa!

Orange Egg Yolk Madeleines

If you’re feeling fancy you could even dust them lightly with confectioner’s sugar or frost with Orange Butter Frosting. But I think I prefer to see the shapely grooves of the Madeleine.

Mountains of Madeleines

Things that I used to make Chinese Egg Yolk Sponge Madeleines…
This was enough to make 24 Madeleines ir you could make one large round cake with this recipe
  • 1 2/3 cups plain flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • The zest of 1 large zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  • Bake madeleines for 10-15 minutes

** This recipe was lovingly adapted from the All Recipes website

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29. Messy Macaroons – France

In Hiroshima, I spotted shop windows stylishly displaying towers of tantalisingly multicoloured circular sandwiches, of every colour in the rainbow. At this point, a couple of yearrs ago now, I had never even heard of Macaroons, let alone tasted one. I kept promising myself one, but with all the other amazing food I never got round to it! Returning home I realised I was macaroonless.

Hello Hiroshima

I then heard more and more about Macaroons, they were everywhere, from Gossip Girl to Lorraine Pascale. (Think Blair Waldorf eating an entire box of pistachio macaroons in the bath.) Then The Great British Bake Off with Edd Kimber’s fabulous macarons. The more I heard about them the more I wanted to try them. Newcastle is not the Macaroon (or macaron – you choose which spelling you prefer, English or French?) central of the world. However my Mam happened upon them in Betty’s Tea Room and bought me an entire box! How decadent and divine, so light and sweet. I sampled the lot,  lemon, pistachio, chocolate and strawberry glossy and smooth macaroons filled with delicious jam and buttercream. They feel like something French aristocrats would enjoy on a daily basis.

Betty’s Tea Rooms Handmade Macaroons – note the glossy exterior, feet and lift!

I had to attempt them myself. They are a French invention, but it seems quite a few other countries have their own variation and have adopted them too. We used to make coconut macaroons with my Mam, but they are something entirely different. (But I have bought some rice paper to have a go myself soon…)

My Messy Macaroons

You can use the Italian meringue method (which uses hot sugar syrup to cook the egg whites before drying out the meringue in the oven. I used it to create my Key Lime Pie) or the French meringue method (where the raw meringue is cooked slowly in the oven)  to make the macaroon shell. I opted for the French method, as it seemed easier! However upon further research the Italian method may be more tricky but it supposedly produces more consistent results. (Next time I’m up for experimenting a bit more with this!)

I learned a few things along the way when making these. They are quite technical and a bit tricky but essentially they are a meringue and like when I made pavlova and mini meringues they require ‘drying out’ or cooking in a low temperature oven.

I chose a classic macaroon recipe to follow and adapted it to suit the flavours that I had in my cupboard. Which meant that I ended up with pink lemon flavoured macaroons. This kind of messes with your mind a little.

Whisking the egg whites

I started by whisking the egg whites and a tablespoon of lemon juice with an electric mixer for quite some time until it becomes stiff. Then gradually whisked in  the rest of the lemon zest and sugar until it was fully incorporated. I also added some powdered red food colouring at this point until I reached my desired pinkness. It’s probably best not to use liquid food colourings here as you don’t want to disturb the consistency of the egg whites too much… Runny egg whites make for one flat and merged meringue. (I should know I’ve already been there and done that.)

Adding the pinkness

It can take 10 minutes or so to whisk the egg whites until they are shiny. Then you known they’re ready for the ground almonds. Using a metal spoon I carefully folded in the ground almonds, so as to keep as much air  in the meringue as possible.

I spooned the meringue paste into a piping bag with a plain round nozzle and piped freestyle. Some people like Holly Bell, who are far more prepared than me, use a template of equally spaced circles (or other shapes) under their greaseproof paper to pipe equal amounts onto the tray.  I however was in a baking frenzy and choose to guess. Therefore my  results are somewhat less than consistent. My piping was supposed to produce little delicate rounds of meringue onto the baking tray lined with grease proof paper. Occasionally little meringue peaks formed on my macaroon circles. I quickly flattened them down again with a slightly wet finger. Good news however! There’s no need to grease the paper before piping, which is always a nice treat.

Piped onto the baking paper – all shapes and sizes

Now here’s my lesson at this point I wish that I had

a)    Gently banged the tray on the worktop to make sure the bottom of the macaroons were flat.

b)    Left the macaroons for 20 – 30 minutes to dry slightly and form a skin on the top before putting them into the oven. (I have since discovered that you get a more glossy finish by doing this and it helps the macaroons to form their characteristic ‘feet’(the little rugged ridge around the base of the shell) and lift up from the tray in the oven.

c)    Blitzed my ground almonds in the food processor before using them to make sure they were really fine. This is supposed to help ensure a smooth and glossy finish. I may have even sieved them if I could have been bothered.

d)    Used icing sugar! The recipe just called for caster sugar. Other recipes I’ve looked at use powdered sugar to get a smoother finish.

e)    Froze the first batch before I filled them. Apparently freezing macaroons helps to make them look and taste even better.

Just baked macaroon shells – oh so many I ran out of trays to pipe them on! (oh and I dropped a wooden spoon on that one in the middle before it made it to the oven…)

But this is all fine and well in hindsight. I didn’t have this wisdom then. I was pleased that they held their shape (whatever shape that may be)  in the oven when I baked them for 40 minutes at 150 degrees C with the oven door slightly open. However they didn’t develop the little feet or lift that they are supposed too so they weren’t as sophisticated as I hoped. They were most definitely not smooth, glossy or shiny either, but more of a pumice stone texture. Thankfully they didn’t taste like pumice stone! They were chewy in the centre and crisp on the outside, just how I like them. (I couldn’t resist trying a few straight from the oven.)

I left them to cool completely before filling them with a generous smudge of my home made lemon curd and a sneaky layer lemon buttercream. Then sandwiched two shells together.

Little and Large

This recipe was only supposed to make 15 macaroons. I ended up with well over 30, so perhaps I made slightly smaller ones than I was supposed to, but they seemed massive to me. All the more macaroon to enjoy in my opinion.

My Messy Macaroons

I took a whole box along with me on my last day in my job and they were the first thing to disappear from the buffet table, which indicates success despite their ever so rustic appearance. With the other half I wrapped the empty shells carefully in layers of greaseproof paper and stored them in an airtight container. I froze them for a month and defrosted them for my friend’s leaving do. They accompanied me to the pub in their own takeaway container.

Take away macaroons

I have a whole macaroon book to experiment with so you can definitely expect messy macaroons part 2 in the near future as I’m determined to perfect them!

Things that I used to make messy macaroons

4 egg whites (I used medium eggs)

1 lemon (juice and zest)

250g caster sugar

200g of ground almonds

Buttercream

Approx 300g icing sugar (enough to create smooth sweet paste when combined with the sugar)

1 lemon zested

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g butter

Lemon Curd

Approx 3 tablespoons of homemade lemon curd (but you can add as much or as little as you like)

Baked for 40 minutes at 150 degrees C with the oven door slightly open.

**Note to self – I also used a little splodge of the uncooked meringue mix on each baking tray to hold the greaseproof paper in place**