Have you ever had a financier? These little tea cakes are very common in Paris and were one of the memorable things we snacked on during our trip there last Spring. Made with browned butter, there is something very special about them.
Maybe part of their appeal is you don't expect them to taste so good. They're rather simple and unassuming looking. Traditional financiers are shaped in a small rectangular mold or loaf and when baked, their golden color makes them look like a bar of gold. I found that in Paris, you see financiers in boat or basic muffin shapes (and they're usually next to the madeleines). They look like a simple little snack cake but when you take a bite, it will very likely make you stop and take a second look at what you're eating because it's that good. At least, that has been my experience...
|An array of financiers on display at Angelina in Paris (sadly, I didn't sample these and wish I had...the "marron", or chestnut, ones look so good!)|
|Financiers from my kitchen - bake them in standard or mini muffin pans, or use small loaf pans or boat molds if you have it|
These little cakes (sometimes referred to as cookies though I find it hard to think of them that way) pack a delicious moist flavor that's really unique. The secret is the browned butter. They're somewhat surprisingly made with egg whites, as well as ground almonds, which add nice texture and flavor. Financiers come in an array of flavors from pistachio to chocolate or chestnut (as shown in the photo above) so you can get creative with the type of ground nuts you use. You could even experiment with fillings like I did. I hid some chestnut cream (that I "imported" back from Paris) into a couple of mine.
|Financier with some chestnut cream stuffed inside. This one was still warm from the oven and could've used a bit more time to set.|
Now, back to the reality of making these in my own kitchen. I wanted to recreate that memory of being surprised by how good they were when we tasted some from Ladurée and Le Bon Marche's Grande Epicerie (a mall with its own separate food hall) in Paris. I used the recipe in Paris Sweets to make these. They are easy to make and done right on the stovetop. The only "trick" is to brown the butter and make sure it doesn't go over to black.
These homemade financiers did not disappoint! They may just look like a bland corn muffin at a glance but they taste way better than they look. The edges and tops are addicting crisp and sweet, while there is an interesting texture to them because of the ground almonds. The best part - the cake is moist and flavorful; there is this almost mysterious caramel flavor to them (thanks to that brown butter). I couldn't stop eating mine and I had devoured one before I knew what hit me. Maybe it would've been better to make mini cakes, in mini muffin cups, in order to practice more self control.
The bad news is these are best eaten fresh, the day they're baked. We had one leftover that we ate the next morning; it was still good but fresh is definitely better. Now, the good news is you can keep the batter refrigerated for up to 3 days and bake them in installments. I didn't have this problem (or luxury) because I made half the recipe, which turned out only 4 standard size muffin-shaped financiers when I was expecting 6. So no leftover batter this time but I'll correct that error next time around.