A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a 1 day Sourdough Baking Course with Sarah (‘Biggie’) Lemke at De Superette in Ghent. De Superette is one of those places I wish was actually in Brussels and not a 40 minute train ride and short tram ride away. De Superette is both a bakery and a restaurant. When Sarah first moved to Europe from the US she was in charge of baking the bread for In De Wulff. Together with In De Wulff’s owner, Kobe Desramault, she then opened De Superette – called as such because it is located in a former supermarket on a quiet and unassuming street not far from the centre of Ghent.
While I have yet to go to De Superette for dinner (the 40 minute train ride is a bit off-putting) or for one of their pizza or ramen nights, I know from personal experience they do an exceptional brunch with all that lovely bread and pastries that Sarah and her team make. And if you are lucky enough, whatever you are ordering will involve some of the flavoured oils or pickles from the big jars lining the shelves above the countertops in the open kitchen. And every time I go there, I cannot help but come away with some of Sarah’s exceptional bread and pastries. In fact, l have a loaf of hers in the freezer right now.
While I have been baking my own sourdough bread for a couple of years by now, I am still not 100 per cent comfortable with the process and feel like getting a good loaf is still a bit hit and miss. So I loved having the opportunity to ask Sarah my long list of questions all things sourdough related, especially on how to best adjust recipes and formulas to suit my schedule (long days in the office and lots of weekend travel are not the most conducive lifestyle to baking sourdough bread it turns out, but Sarah gave me some tips on how to adjust recipes to fit around my schedule).
Since then I have been keeping a little notebook where I take a few notes on every single loaf I bake, including the ingredients, the temperature of mixing the first dough, how long the autolyse was for plus proofing times etc. I have only been doing this for a month or so, but I am already starting to see an improvement in my loaves: better ovenspring and a more open crumb.
All these bread experiments do mean I have slightly too many different types of flour in my pantry for a household of one. When I last checked, there were bags of all purpose flour, wholemeal flour, rye flour, buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, sticky rice flour, spelt flour, khorasan flour and masa harina. On occasion there will also be bags of emmer, einkorn, oat or barley flour. They all have their part to play in my kitchen. And while some of these flours were initially purchased with the sole intention of baking bread, I certainly don’t limit their use to baking bread.
Masa harina initially found its way into my kitchen when I was going through a phase of cooking a lot of Mexican food and was determined to make my own masa harina tortillas. But after trying Christina Tosi’s Corn Cookies, I was hooked on the idea of incorporating that corny flavour into more cookies and cakes as well. There was Toasted (coarse) Cornmeal and Salted Honey Shortbread, then Blueberry and Thyme Buckles with masa harina and now these Masa Harina Madeleines.
Getting these gluten-free madeleines right took a number of trials as batch after batch those coveted madeleines humps eluded me, something I never struggled with when making madeleines with regular flour. Lucky for my co-workers I guess. Because they got to eat the test batches. During my research I also noticed that there is a noticeable dearth of recipes for gluten-free madeleines. I now suspect this is because madeleines are already tricky enough to get right without the challenge of using gluten-free flours. But, success did come to me in the end when I started to use a 50:50 mix of masa harina and brown rice flour – imagine my excitement when my timer went off and I anxiously went to check on the latest batch and each madeleine had a cute little hump!
Masa Harina Madeleines with a Whiskey Glaze
Notes: One thing that improves all things made with masa harina is to toast the flour in a dry pan or the oven before mixing it with the other ingredients – this really brings out the corn flavour of the flour and it’s a step I no longer skip and neither should you. It only takes a few minutes and vastly improves the flavour of whatever you bake with masa harina. And while madeleines are perfectly good on their own, I do adore a crunchy sugary glaze and this whiskey glaze is the perfect pairing to the corny flavour of the masa harina.
Makes 15-18 medium sized madeleines
For the madeleines
60g masa harina
60g rice flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
100g butter, melted
For the whiskey glaze
60g icing sugar
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp whiskey
2 tsp milk
Extra butter and rice flour to grease and flour the madeleine tin
Start by making the madeleine batter.
In a dry pan on medium heat toast the masa harina until fragrant, stirring continuously to ensure even toasting. This will take no more than a few minutes so keep an eye on the pan.
Beat the eggs with the sugar in a bowl until pale in colour and tripled in volume (this will take ca. 5 minutes). In a separate bowl, whisk together the masa harina with the rice flour, baking powder and pinch of salt.
Pour the melted butter over the beaten eggs, add the dry ingredients and carefully mix everything together. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge for at least 2h.
Grease and flour a madeleine tin and place in the fridge for at least 1h.
Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Add one scant tablespoon of batter into each indentation of the madeleines tin and bake for 6-7 minutes or until the madeleines are well-risen and springy to the touch. Carefully remove the madeleines from their tin and place the madeleines on a cookie rack to cool.
Repeat with the remaining batter.
For the glaze, whisk together the icing sugar, whiskey, maple syrup and milk until there are no lumps remaining and the glaze is smooth. Using a pastry brush brush a thin layer of glaze on the scalloped side of each madeleine. Place the madeleines glazed side up on a cookie rack and wait for the glaze to harden.
The madeleines are best eaten on the day they are made but will keep fresh for 2-3 days if stored in a tin.