Chocolate Malt Madelines
Holy bananas, people, it's Valentine's Day tomorrow! How did this happen? I swear I'm totally one of those old people now that walks around proclaiming that it was just Christmas! and I don't understand this iPhone! and what on Earth is a Nicki Minaj?!
Where's my Sanka?
Anyway, it's here--the holiday that's not actually a holiday, but you'd really better observe it in some manner for the ones you love, lest you feel really guilty. I'm a fan of the little things on Valentine's Day, myself. I like a little thing of flowers, chocolates, a nice card, sweet little tokens like that. Please don't escort me to a heart-shaped hot tub with rose petals floating in it and Sade playing in the background, or give me a giant teddy bear holding a velvet heart that contains an ugly necklace that I have to wear all the time and pretend to like it. I may not physically drop kick you, but I will be doing just that, in my mind. Keep it sweet, keep it simple.
To me, edible gifts are the perfect kind for faux holidays like this one. And even though God has nothing to do with turning February 14th into an emotional carnival for so many people, I'm sure that the good Lord would insist that if you are going to participate in some Valentine's Day gift giving, you best include chocolate. It's the right thing to do.
So full disclosure: When I was developing this recipe, the batter was meant to take a completely different form, sort of like the most glorious pound cake you ever did see. But despite a terrific flavor and texture, there were lots of sinking cakes, lots of sadness. In a fit of desperation and not wanting to give up was was good about the batter (tenderness, richness, an almost chewy texture, and a good amount of fat) just to create the finished product I had in my crazy head, I went with the totally adorable and way too often overlooked madeline and whomp, there it was.
You know what's so great about madelines? They take so little time to bake--usually just about seven to eight minutes--that they offer almost instant gratification when you're craving something sweet and cakey. Less time than cupcakes or even cookies, guys! So great. Also, the batter really couldn't be prettier--almost like chocolate clouds when it's all said and done.
Actually, come think of it, I am going to take back that statement about grandiose Valentine's Day gestures for this one exception: if you can get me a chocolate cloud on which to float, THAT would really be something.
Chocolate Malt Madelines Makes about 2 dozen cookies
I am a huge fan of adding malt powder to all kinds of baked goods--it adds a sort of richness and slight chew that's so totally craveworthy. Here it offers a little of its toasty flavor, but it's really more about the texture that it lends than making the whole thing taste like a milkshake.
The yield and the baking time is going to depend on the kind of madeline pan you have. I have a pan that has 12 wells, each about 3 inches long. In any case, bake the madelines just until a toothpick comes out clean--these suckers can overbake quickly. If you don't have a madeline pan, mini muffin tins will work fine. In that case, bake for about 10 minutes.
For the madelines:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder, plus a little extra for dusting the pan 1/4 cup plain malted milk powder (like Carnation or Horlicks) 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 4 large eggs, at room temperature 1 cup granulated sugar 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus a little extra for greasing the pan
For finishing the madelines:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60 to 70% cacao), chopped 1/2 cup heavy cream 1/2 cup crushed malted milk balls
Position an oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 425 degrees. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush each well of a madeline pan with melted butter, being sure to get into all the little ridges. Dust the pan with cocoa powder and tap out the excess.
Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, malted milk powder, espresso powder, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla on high speed until fluffy, pale in color, and almost tripled in volume, about 5 minutes.
In three batches, gently sift the dry ingredients over the egg mixture and fold gently to blend well. Place the melted butter in the bowl that housed the dry ingredients. Scoop about a quarter of the batter into the melted butter, and whisk until smooth. Slowly pour the buttered batter in a spiral pattern into the mixer bowl with the remaining chocolate batter (the idea is to keep the chocolate batter light and avoid deflating it by scraping the heavier buttered batter in all at once). Fold gently until the batter is well blended, and no oily streaks of butter remain.
Load the batter into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (or a large ziptop bag with a corner snipped off). Fill the wells of the madeline tin about three-quarters full. Bake until the tops of the madelines spring back when ligthly touched a toothpick just comes out clean, 7 to 8 minutes. Immediately turn the madelines out onto a wire rack to cool completely, using a small, thin spatula or knife to help loosed them if need be. Let the tin cool before filling the wells with the remaining batter.
In a heatproof bowl, combine the chopped chocolate and heavy cream. Melt them together over a double boiler or in the microwave with 30 second bursts of high power, stirring well after each interval, until the ganache is smooth. Stir often over a 10 to 15 minute period to help thicken the ganache--enough so that it's cool, but can still be spooned over the madelines. Finish the madelines with a sprinkling of chopped malted milk balls. Let the ganache set a bit at room temperature before serving, about 1 hour.