Cookbook shows how to bake like the Duchess

Recipe: Vanilla madeleines

Sept. 15, 2014 was set to be among the biggest days of Jacob Pelletier’s life.

It was the due date for two major events. One: the arrival of his and Giselle Courteau's first child. Two: the printing of the Duchess Bake Shop co-owners' first cookbook, named after the store and written by Courteau.

As if to make things easier on his parents, their baby boy decided to wait 13 days, letting mom and dad focus on the book before beginning their next big project.

“We were working really crazy up to the due date,” says Pelletier (Culinary Arts ’07). “Even the night before, we were up ’til three, four in the morning looking over the book to find any last-minute mistakes.”

Launching Nov. 12, the $45 book has been an intense labour of love. In the four months before press-date, 20-hour days of writing, photographing and recipe testing were routine. Choosing to self-publish, they also handled logistics. Pelletier didn’t see an alternative.

“We wanted to do everything our way and not make any compromises.”

The result is a 288-page volume containing more than 80 recipes that captures the spirit of Duchess, their 58-staff bakery and (in Provisions by Duchess) supply shop that started five years ago with a staff of four.

Though strongly influenced by classic French pastry traditions, the shop, located just west of Edmonton’s downtown core, strives to appeal to local tastes. So does the book, which is what Pelletier feels makes it unique in a crowded cookbook market. “You don’t really see that in any other book: the fact that we make Paris-Brest alongside banana-cream pie and brownies.”

Duchess has a reputation for perfection. If the croissants come out of the oven looking odd, says Pelletier, they aren’t sold. The book, available at the shop and online, doesn’t demand the same standards of bakers who use it, but clearly shows how to reach that height of quality.

Recipes – even for the two-day baking project that is the Duke cake – are written for the home baker, which is how Courteau began her career. She mindfully included a glossary of ingredients and tools (available at the shop), and methods are accompanied by helpful, detailed photography directed by Pelletier. (There's even a bit of Duchess history, penned by co-owner Garner Beggs.)

The book is made to be used, inspire, even to be cherished and shared. “It’s something that my grandma would have gave to me and passed down some recipes,” says Pelletier.

Despite the work it required, the Duchess crew is already thinking about future projects. While nothing is decided yet, possibilities include videos to accompany the book and a slimmer volume of holiday favourites.

For now, however, Pelletier and Courteau intend to savour the experience of being new authors – and, with that project put to bed, new parents.

In some ways, running a bakery has been perfect preparation for this time of Pelletier’s life and career. The shop helped him refine the techniques they’ve shared in the book, and, unexpectedly, it taught him and Courteau how to manage the inevitable challenges of life with a newborn.

“We’re used to the no-sleep thing,” says Pelletier.

Recipe: Vanilla madeleines
from Duchess Bake Shop

Makes 24 madeleines


160 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp (2 ml) baking powder
4 large eggs, at room temperature
150 g (3/4 cup) sugar
150 g (2/3 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla extract or paste
100 g (1/2 cup) sugar
120 g (1/2 cup) water


You will need a 16- or 24-cavity madeleine pan. These are becoming easier to find in specialty kitchen stores and online. It’s hard to come up with an alternative pan to use as it’s the distinctive shell-like shape that makes the madeleine unique, however, a mini-muffin pan will also work.


The batter will need to rest in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before baking. When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 400 F (205 C). Grease and flour the madeleine pan.

  1. Mix the flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl until well combined. Add the butter, vanilla, and any flavour additions (see suggestions on the next page) and whisk until well combined.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and whisk in the wet ingredients. Mix until well combined.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. 

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