Chestnut Honey Madeleines
Makes 2 dozen cookies
Melissa Clark, a very talented (and my favorite) food writer for The New York Times, once wrote about my chestnut honey madeleines: "Delicate brown, dusted with sugar and scallop shaped, the chestnut honey madeleines at Sweet Melissa Patisserie in Brooklyn look just like ordinary madeleines. But one bite proves otherwise. A perfumed, almost autumnal sensation fills the mouth, like the scent of sunshine-dried leaves, butterscotch, and toasted nuts. Then the featherweight cake dissolves, leaving you to wonder: Could all that flavor really have come from such a dainty morsel? . . . " (The New York Times, Feb. 17, 1999) No wonder she's my favorite food writer.
2/3 cup roasted hazelnuts
1 2/3 cups confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
13 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 large egg whites
1 tablespoon chestnut or clover honey
BEFORE YOU START
Using a pastry brush, brush on soft butter and then flour two 12-cup madeleine molds. Refrigerate until ready to use.
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, grind the hazelnuts with 2/3 cup of the confectioners' sugar, pulsing as fine as you can get it, so that it is a semicoarse flour (you should have 1/2 cup hazelnut flour).
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the hazelnut flour, all-purpose flour, and the remaining confectioners' sugar.
3. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until the butter solids at the bottom of the pan turn golden brown. Immediately remove from the heat and strain into a bowl to stop the cooking. Discard the solids.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the flour mixture and mix until combined. Add the butter and honey and mix until combined.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepared molds, filling almost to the top. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
6. Position a rack in the top and bottom thirds of your oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Remove the filled molds from the refrigerator. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. After removing from the oven, immediately tap the pans on your work surface to release the madeleines. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
To serve, turn the madeleines scallop side up and dust with confectioners' sugar. They will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for three days. For longer storage, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to five days, or freeze for up to three weeks. Do not uncover before defrosting.