A classic of French cookery, madeleines are delicate sponge cakes traditionally made in a special pan with shell-shaped molds. Families such as the Crawleys, seasoned travelers to France as they are, would have known them well. They're served in season 1, when Matthew is still coming to terms with having a valet to serve him and helps himself to them, much to Molesley's chagrin. Quick and easy to make, they were perfect for delicate, feminine afternoon teas but were also suitable for late-night snacking, and often filled the biscuit jars kept by Mary, Edith, and Sybil's beds.
Anna: Have you had any breakfast?
Daisy: Not a crumb.
She takes the biscuit jar beside the bed and hands it to Daisy.
Gwen: You can't take her biscuits
Anna: She never eats them. None of them do. They're just thrown away and changed every evening.
Daisy: Thanks. She won't mind anyway. She's nice, Lady Sybil.
- Season 1. Episode 5
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter 12 madeleine molds. Dust them with superfine sugar, tapping out the excess.
Put the melted butter, superfine sugar, and flour into a bowl and stir to mix well. Add the orange flower water and lemon zest and juice and again mix well. Stir in the egg yolks until blended.
In a separate bowl, combine the egg whites and salt. Whisk by hand or with a handheld mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter just until no white steaks remain. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared molds.
Bake until very lightly browned at the edges, 10-12 minutes. Let cool in the molds on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn out of the molds onto the rack and let cool completely. Sift the confectioners" sugar over the madeleines just before serving.
If you don't have madeleine molds, standard muffin cups will work. In the Edwardian period,you could also get English madeleines, which were made in dariole molds (shaped like small flowerpots) and were often hallowed out, filled with jam, the tops put back on and then iced. This recipe will also work for those, with or without the jam filling.