239 W. 4th St., nr. Charles St. 646-449-9336
How do you turn a stuffy, slightly archaic sponge-cake pastry, beloved by generations of Proustians and aged French tea drinkers, into the ultimate hipster dessert? At Gabe Stulman’s latest raffish West Village hangout, they whip eggs and sugar together, then mix with lime zest, flour, and the seeds of a boutique vanilla bean. Then they pour the velvet batter into generous shell-shaped molds and bake until the shells are warm and fluffy within and fringed on their exterior with a light, golden crust. The resulting madeleines are larger than many that you see in pastry stores, and because they’re baked to order, they’re never rubbery or dry. Best of all, though, is the pot of honey-flavored sabayon on the side, which makes this old-fashioned dessert taste both decadent and comforting, like an elevated version of the good old American Twinkie.
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