How the hell do you decide where to eat in Paris? Pardon my French (pun very much intended). When Jonah and I decided to spend a quick 36 hours in the city of light between Christmas with his family in Germany and landing in Lisbon, I immediately felt overwhelmed. In my opinion, Paris is not the kind of place you can do in that short amount of time! But Jonah and I had both been to the city before, so we decided to just spend the day walking and eating.
As a holiday gift, my mom sent me some money for a nice dinner out in Paris. The research commenced, and after much reading, we ended up settling on a place I found fairly early on in my hunt: Restaurant Alliance from chef Toshitaka Omiya and Shawn Joyeux, two men with lots of Paris kitchen experience. It seemed beautiful, small, and interesting – and that’s exactly what it was. The space was long and narrow, seating maybe 30 people in total in comfy chairs under beautiful round chandeliers. The space was very calm and quiet without being uncomfortably so; everything felt very relaxed. In the back of the dining room, a huge window allowed a peek into the kitchen where the chef works.
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a batch of baked goods disappear so quickly. I just wanted to warn you right off the bat. Whether you’re making these buckwheat madeleines for you and your honey at home or to take to a fête, you should know either way that they won’t be around for long. I think it’s because they dance on the edge of sweetness and toe the line between a soft, cakey middle and crunchy browned edges. The outside is a tiny bit sticky from a spoonful of honey, and so when you finish eating one you have to lick your fingers, which only reminds you of the comforting flavors swirling around your tastebuds.
I spotted the recipe for these madeleines in my dad’s copy of My Paris Kitchen, which, yes I’ve been pining over and no I don’t have yet (but I may have just ordered). David Lebovitz has long had a home in my kitchen. I believe his lemon curd was the first one I ever made, and I’ve churned plenty of his ice cream recipes. When my dad got his cookbook, he almost immediately sent me the recipe for the leeks with mustard-bacon vinaigrette, which are delicious and you should definitely make them. I think I love his writing so much because I used to dream of packing up my life and moving to Paris, where I would use my 6 years of French lessons to make French friends and shop at French markets and cook French meals and it would all be so perfectly French.
But sometimes that isn’t quite how real life goes. You do sensible things like go to college and have roommates and get a job (or a few) instead of living the dream life in Paris. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have French inspired food and toss little French phrases around with other French speakers. And it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t brown butter in your kitchen so the house smells like nutty, toasty heaven, whisk that brown butter in with buckwheat flour and honey, and fill the molds of a madeleine pan with the batter. And it doesn’t mean you can’t break one of the madeleines in two while it’s still warm, the inside springy and spongey and the edges perfectly crispy. And it definitely doesn’t mean you can’t eat three (or four…) in the span of 10 minutes.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
2/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 egg whites, equaling about 1/2 cup (hint: keep the remaining yolks to make a citrus curd later)
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp cocoa nibs (optional – I didn’t use these)
In a pan over medium heat, cook the butter until it’s the color of a perfectly cooked marshmallow or toast. The butter will foam and spit, don’t be afraid. When it’s brown, pour into a heat proof bowl and set aside.
Preheat your oven to 400°F. In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the egg whites and honey and whisk until combined. Add about a third of the brown butter, and mix until combined, then slowly add the rest of the butter while mixing. If you’re using the cocoa nibs, add them now and mix until they’re evenly distributed.
Brush your madeleine pan with butter, and fill the molds about 3/4 of the way full with batter – about one tablespoon. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the madeleines spring back lightly when you touch them in the middle. Thanks to the buckwheat flour, you can’t really rely on color here too much, but you’ll kind of be able to tell when the edges are looking a little on the golden side. Allow to cool in the pan for about a minute before popping them out onto a cooling rack. I recommend eating them warm (or at least the same day) with a cup of coffee or tea.