I’m not crazy about cooking, but I do love to bake. There’s something magical about the science of whipping together a calculated formula to create a beautiful, decadent treat that comes out perfect every time.
And I’m in love with madeleines—those delicate, moist little shell-shaped French sponge cakes. When our food editor Merce Muse recently developed a killer recipe for a chocolate version, I perked up—I now had a good reason to buy a madeleine pan and whip up my own cute little cakes.
But these treats are iconically buttery. I wondered what would happen if I skip the butter in favor of a different fat: The highly revered avocado. Since 1/4 cup of avocado has less than a quarter of the calories of the same amount of butter, it was definitely worth a shot. Sound crazy? Maybe just crazy enough to work.
So on a Saturday night—woo hoo!—I blasted the music of one of my favorite bands and baked my little heart out.
I split the recipe half-and-half between one batch made with avocado and another with butter.
The ripest avocado I could find mashed up easily in a bowl. I used a little bit of it to grease the madeleine pan with my fingers. Over a double boiler, I melted dark, dark chocolate with a little bit of coffee. When it came time to add 1/2 cup of avocado, it seemed so wrong to heat this ingredient best served cold. The mixture didn’t quite liquefy. Instead it turned out thick and lumpy, and I wasn't sure this was going to work out, but there was no turning back at this point.
After removing the avocado from the heat, I mixed in the rest of the ingredients. The concoction looked akin to a dense brownie batter. I spooned it into the madeleine pan to bake for about 10 minutes.
Next up, I did the same exact steps with butter (including greasing the pan). The melted chocolate and butter was smooth and creamy, and so was the resulting batter once I added the rest of the ingredients. I baked this batch for 10 minutes as well.
The butter madeleines definitely looked a little prettier—more like traditional madeleines—compared to the avocado version, which were a little more plump.
I taste tested with my boyfriend, and surprisingly, he loved both the butter and the avocado versions! He's a brownie fiend, so what's not to love about each of these brownie-like madeleines? The avocado version had the slightest hint of a fruity aftertaste, which is not as weird as it sounds. Both were a little sweeter than I would like, since I’m a fan of the subtle vanilla madeleine. Next time I make these, I'll probably cut down the sugar and honey a bit.
Honestly, the difference in taste and texture between the two versions is only evident when tasting them side by side. I conducted a blind taste test with four of my coworkers here at Thrive HQ, including our Co-CEO, and all agree: Both taste great—but everyone preferred the avocado version! And contrary to what you might think, not every Thrive employee is a complete health nut; we definitely indulge in moderation, buttery desserts included!
The success of this baking trick was a pleasant surprise—and maybe a game changer. Vegan madeleines have never been such a real possibility—just make use of this avocado swap, omit the honey, replace one egg with one tablespoon of ground flaxseed and three tablespoons of water, and opt for vegan dark chocolate.
I’m definitely down to continue my baking adventures with avocado. Perhaps I’ll try traditional vanilla madeleines next—or shall I experiment with turning my perfected pie crust on its head? Try it with me, and share your thoughts on baking with avocado or other creative substitutes in the comments below!
Photo credit: Paul Delmont