I was trolling the nuts at Trader Joe’s and I came across an unassuming section of freeze dried fruits. I spontaneously bought a couple of the lighter than air, space food style bags of berries without an agenda. When I got home and zipped open the bag, a messy cloud of dusty berries spilled out to display the most beautiful, bold, bubble gum, teeny-bopper pink imaginable. The deep pink space dust sprung my sprockets and gave me an exhilarating urge to get my MTV The Grind on.
I ground up the freeze dried strawberries using a muddler and a mixing bowl. I crushed the strawberries like a 90s teen girl crushed over Luke, Leo and Leto in issues of Tiger Beat Magazine. The berries ground into a fine pink powder in a shade pretty enough to leave a bubble gum pink kiss on Johnny Depp’s pale, sliced-up cheek on an Edward Scissorhands movie poster.
Daydreaming about those 90s hunks and strawberry bubblegum made me nostalgic for the popular flavors I loved as an 80s/90s kid. When I think of strawberry flavor, it conjures up memories of those complimentary little scoops of Neapolitan ice cream in tiny footed silver bowls, served at the end of every meal at those “Italian” restaurants popular in the 80s/90s. I painfully endured a drawn out, sit down dinner with my excruciatingly boring and embarrassing family in anticipation of the grand finale of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry swirled ice cream. Waiting for dessert to arrive was almost as painful as that achey, lovesick feeling of sitting home by the phone on Friday night waiting for my Jr. High crush to call. Unlike the calls, the ice cream always came.
Harnessing that mix of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavors and imbuing it with those overwhelmingly intense feelings that accompany puppy love, I came up with a swoon-worthy recipe for Neapolitan Madeleines. While mixing up the batter, I was feeling insecure about how the recipe would turn out and worried the colors and flavors might fade into wallflowers. But their natural beauty and flavorful personality came through and they turned out to be the Homecoming Queen of baby cakes. The playful layers of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry are like a bad boy, football player, and sensitive nerd all wrapped up into one sweet little cake.
These Neapolitan Madeleines have me crushing hard and wanting more. If only I knew how to bake, had developed this recipe (and breasts), wasn’t painfully shy, was a supermodel, and was about 10 years older that time I met Johnny Depp when I was 12. Maybe, just maybe, this recipe would have stolen his dark and mysterious heart. <3
- large eggs at room temperature - 4
- granulated sugar - 1 cup
- pure vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon
- all purpose flour - 2 cups
- baking powder - 2 teaspoons
- fine sea salt - 1 teaspoon
- unsalted butter at room temperature - 1 cup
- dark unsweetened cocoa powder - 2 tablespoons
- freeze dried berries - 1/4 cup - 1/2 cup
- honey - 1/4 cup
- water - 1-2 tablespoons
- Using a mortar and pestle, coffee grinder or a muddler or wooden spoon and a mixing bowl, crush the freeze dried berries until they turn into a fine dust. Sift into a bowl and set aside. You want about 3 tablespoons of strawberry powder. Sift the cocoa into another small mixing bowl and set aside.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
- Place the eggs in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed, adding the sugar a little at a time, until all the sugar is incorporated. Turn the mixer to high and whisk until the eggs have doubled in volume, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and stir in the vanilla by hand, followed by the sifted flour, baking powder, and salt. Divide the batter evenly among 3 separate bowls, a kitchen scale will help you get precise measurements. Add the sifted strawberry powder to 1 bowl and stir until the color has fully mixed in. Add the cocoa powder to another bowl of batter and stir until the color has fully mixed. Leave the 3rd bowl as plain vanilla.
- Cover the bowls and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove and reserve 1/4 cup (4 TB) of the butter for brushing the pans. Allow the butter to cool for 20-30 minutes.
- Stir the 1/4 cup (4 TB) butter into each of the 3 batters until smooth. Cover the batter and allow to rest for an additional 30 minutes or up to an hour.
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Transfer the batters into 3 separate ziplock baggies and make a small snip on the corner tip of each one, just big enough to gently squeeze the batter out in a smooth ribbon.
- Brush madeleine molds with remaining melted butter. Fill each indentation in the molds three-quarters full with batter, layering each of the 3 flavors horizontally in each shell. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to distribute the batter evenly.
- Bake until the edges begin to turn golden brown and the centers have puffed up, about 8 to 10 minutes. When a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, the madeleines are done. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for about 3 minutes, and then tip them out onto a cooling rack.
- Meanwhile, whisk 1/4 cup with 1-2 tablespoons of water to make a watered down honey glaze.
- Once the madeleines have slightly cooled down, use a pastry brush to gently brush them with honey glaze.
- Allow the glaze to set, then serve with tea or nice bottle of Rosé.