½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon or orange zest (optional)
In a small saucepan, melt the butter and then keep it warm.
In a small bowl, use a whisk to combine the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and both sugars at high speed until the mixture is thick and pale in color. This will take at least 5 to 8 minutes, and the batter should fall in heavy ribbons when done.
Add the vanilla extract and lemon zest, if using, and beat again on high for 30 seconds.
Sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the whipped eggs and use a rubber spatula to gently fold it in until combined. Sift and fold in half of the remaining mixture, and then sift and fold in the rest, being careful not to overmix, or the batter will deflate.
Take about 1 cup of the batter and fold it into the warm melted butter. This will “temper” the butter and make it easier to fold into the batter. Then, with a spatula, gently fold the butter mixture completely into the egg batter. Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate the batter for at least one hour. The batter may be refrigerated for up to 3 days before using.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
For best results and easy removal of the cookies: Use a pastry brush and melted butter to generously grease the molds of the Madeleine pan. Dust the molds with flour, tap the sides of the pan until each mold is coated and then tap out the excess flour. Refrigerate the pan for at least 10 minutes, or until the butter hardens.
Use a small ice cream scoop or tablespoon and place a generous mound of batter in the center of each prepared mold. Do not spread the batter out into the mold. This step will ensure that the Madeleines have the classic “humped” appearance.
Bake the cookies for about 8 to 11 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the centers spring back when lightly touched. Be careful not to overbake or the cookies will be dry.
Remove the pan from the oven and immediately tap it against the counter to release the Madeleines, then place the cookies on a wire rack to cool. Serve immediately for best results, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 or 2 days, or in the freezer for up to one month. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.