The financier (pronounced fee-nahn-see-AY) often shows up on petit four plates all over France. There are many stories about how the financier got its name so I’m sharing just one of many. The financier was created by a baker named Lasne, whose bakery on the Rue St. Denis was near the Bourse, the financial center of Paris. Presumably, the rich little cake was named for the rich financiers who frequented his bakery. The cake was baked in rectangular molds, the shape of gold bars. I like this story!
It’s deceptively simple, but perhaps like all things French, so damn refined! It’s a staple at almost all the fine pastry shops across France and now they seem to be pretty popular almost across all the fine pastry shops in the world. It seems like an ordinary little tea cake but that’s why I said it’s so deceptive; it’s so different from a cake.
For one it appears in all kinds of shapes – round in some places and rectangular in the others (see the molds I found on my trip to France).
Second it’s so damn versatile – you can make them all so entirely different; drop pistachios in some, pecans or strawberries in others, dark chocolate nibs in some or mix and match in some…
Refined as it may seem it is relatively easy to make. A few tricks to keep in mind and you are home.
What you need is a whisk, a bowl, a pan and some French wine and some Jazz. The last two ingredients are not for the financier but for your soul.
A few steps make or break the cake. The first, browning the butter is what defines its flavour and adds depth to whatever the base nut you are using (almonds are the most traditional but hazelnuts or even cashews work just as well). You need to heat the butter over medium low heat until it begins to brown and smell nutty. Undercooking it is equally damaging for it will lack the necessary aroma.
The second trick is to mix the batter as little as possible. It should be stirred until just blended. If you stir too much, the gluten in the flour will get overworked and the cake will be tough.
The third trick they say is to rest the batter before baking. A few hours in the refrigerator and the flavours will harmonize. I have never been able to wait.
And one last bit; you have to eat them fresh. Now that’s not much of a problem, is it?
- 120 gms icing sugar
- 40 gms flour
- 60 gms almond meal
- 100 gms egg whites (egg whites from about 3 large eggs)
- 100 gms unsalted butter (browned)
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
- Butter 12 financier molds or a mini-muffin tin. Refrigerate buttered tin.
- Sift together sugar, flour and almond meal into a medium bowl.
- Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in previously beaten egg whites; whisk together by hand until ingredients have been combined.
- To brown the butter, melt butter in a sauce pan over low to medium heat until bits begin browning. Continue whisking slowly to prevent browned bits from settling. Strain melted butter through a cheesecloth.
- While still hot, slowly pour browned butter into batter, simultaneously whisking the batter until combined.
- Evenly distribute batter among molds or mini-muffin tin wells, leaving about ⅛" of space from the rim.
- Lower oven temperature to 170 degrees, and bake on the center rack for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
- Cool unmolded financiers on a wire rack.