The Baker’s Apprentice

3 minute read


You might already know that I adore baked goods. My love for them is poetic. There is nothing prettier than a piece of light, fluffy vanilla cake with bits of raspberry in it. My host in Bellevue (Peter, you’re awesome and I miss you) last summer once baked these delicious raspberry and date muffins. I have vivid memories of devouring those while struggling with the intricacies of networks’ peering policies. Such fond memories.

As fate would have it, my new housemate in Amherst is not only a fine computer scientist, she is also an accomplished baker of some repute. She routinely bakes things I can barely pronounce and offers me a taste of these delicious treats. Today, she offered to teach me how to bake madeleines (OMG, I’ve waited for this my whole life). So, in this post, I will log the amazing process of being a baker’s apprentice. We followed this recipe religiously and the end result was phenomenal.

We started by melting butter in a saucepan:

While the butter was warming, we whisked flour, baking powder and salt together. Please note, being naive and foolish, I was about to measure the flour by volume using a measuring cup. My roommate gave me a look of intense judgement while telling me that doing so is a rookie mistake. She measures things by weight to be really precise.

After this, we beat in eggs, sugar, for roughly 8 minutes at high speed (thank God for roommate’s KitchenAid) in a mixer. We then added vanilla extract and orange zest into the mixture.

The next part of the recipe is tricky. We now needed to mix the flour mixture into the egg mixture. If you are a clueless baker like me, you’d dump the dry stuff into the wet stuff and go crazy on whisking. This however would be a grave mistake. Due to the need for immense fluffiness in madeleines, instead, one has to fold in the butter + batter mixture into the egg batter, like so:

Also, there is complex density drop and gain stuff happening while mixing the butter into the egg batter. If you are curious about that, come by our house in Amherst and we’ll geek out about that. Too much to express in text. But by now, you will have the final batter prepared.

For those of you seeking instant gratification from baking, madeleines will tease you a bit. You can’t simply make the batter and put it to bake. Once the batter is ready, it needs to be chilled for over 2 hours. In this break, if you’re anything like me, you’d eagerly wait for a friend to call you but they’d oversleep and ping you 2 hours later. By then, you’re already furious with them and there is nothing they can do to fix it.

After the batter has been chilled, you pour it into plastic bags for easy maneuvering. Prepare the madeleine pans by greasing them with butter and sprinkling flour on top. This prevents the baked yumminess to not stick to the pan. Apparently, I did this part well enough to earn a nod of approval from my roommate:

Then squeeze enough batter into each groovy slot in the pan, like so:

The key benefit of learning this from my accomplished-baker-friend (ABF?) was that she knew when something I did was stupid and she’d stop me. If only I had that in life too. Finally, put the baking trays into the oven and wait for the madeleine tummies to pop. They came out looking beautiful like this: