The following spring, hubby and I headed to Paris for a full month. We rented a fabulous petit appartement in the Marais (or 4e arrondissement), and spent four fabulous weeks strolling around the city and getting to know Paris that much better, along with a little side trip to Lyon and Arles. We shopped at the local boulangeries, pâtisseries and the Monoprix (bien sur!), we drank cafés crèmes at cafés and ate croque monsieurs, macarons and pain au chocolat and even conducted our own little taste test of the fabulous Plaisirs Sucrés made by the chef who invented it, Pierre Hermé, and those at Ladurée (where he was working when he invented - Pierre's won out, hands down). I shopped at fabulous kitchenware stores and spent some wonderful days taking cooking classes at the famed le Cordon Bleu and Lenôtre, learning to make decadent grantinée dauphinios and just how seriously the French take their croissants. One word of advice - if you ever go to Paris and intend on taking cooking classes; the classes at LCB are translated into English, at Lenôtre they are not, so make sure your 'Food French' is up to par before you go!
But I digress (which seems to happen every time I get started talking about Paris)... many a day, we would spend hours in one of the many museums of Paris, or just exploring a different arrondissement, and while you cannot walk more than a couple of blocks in Paris without passing some type of establishment selling food, we did find it handy to have some sort of casse-croûte in our bag. One of our favourite such snacks were these petits boutons de financiers which we would pick up from the Boulangerie-Pâtisserie Heurtier, just down the street from our apartment. A small sack of these moist little almond, chocolate or pistachio cakes, the size of a nickel, really hit the spot when we were in need a bit of nourishment ('cuz, you know, otherwise we were going to starve... in Paris).
Upon returning home to Edmonton, armed with a new silicone bouton mold from Paris, I made it my mission to recreate those delicious little cakelettes we snacked on. I searched cookbooks and recipe sites far and wide, even searching various cooking sites from France. All the recipes were basically the same, and they were pretty good, but I never managed to find the recipe that reproduced the moist, tender financiers I remembered. Until one day, however, when I was flipping through my copy of Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan, and suddenly there it was - the holy grail of financier recipes (I swear I could hear angels singing). It was completely different from all of the other recipes in every possible way, from the ratio of ingredients to the method of preparation (it needs to be said - this recipe is much faster and easier... *bonus*). I immediately broke out the butter, almonds, sugar and eggs and got to work. The result: success. Moist, tender, flavourful little treats than immediately transported me back to the rue de la Verrerie in Paris.
So here you have it: the recipe as it is in Dorie's book. Don't worry if you don't have a financier or bouton mold - I imagine very few of you do - just use a small madeleine mold or even a miniature muffin pan and adjust the cooking time until they are just springy to the touch when baked. Be careful not to over-bake them, or they're likely to be more dry than moist, and that would be a crime. Oh, and I hope you were all paying attention when I posted about Browned Butter Blondies, because brown butter is one of the key components of Financiers...
Financiers (excerpted from Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan)
makes about 12 mini-muffin sized cakes
makes a lot more if using a smaller mold
1 1/2 sticks (180 g) unsalted butter
1 Cup (201 g) granulated sugar
1 Cup (100 g) ground blanched almonds
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2/3 Cup (90 g) all-purpose flour
Put the butter in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally. Allow the butter to bubble away until it turns a deep brown, but don't turn your back on the pan - the difference between brown and black is measured in seconds. Pull the pan from the heat and keep it in a warm place.
Mix the sugar and almonds together in a large saucepan. Stir in the egg whites, place the pan over low heat, and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, heat the mixture until it is runny, slightly white, and hot to the touch (about 2 minutes). Remove the pan from heat and stir in the flour, then gradually mix in the the melted butter. Transfer the batter to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it against the surface of the batter to create an airtight seal, and chill for at least 1 hour (the batter can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days).
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Butter and flour 12 financier molds (or whatever mold you are using). (Dorie tested with rectangular financier molds that each hold 3 tablespoons - the bouton molds I use each hold 1 tsp)
Fill each mold almost to the top with batter. Slide the molds into the oven and bake for 12-13 minutes, or until the financiers are golden, crowned and springy to the touch. If necessary, run a blunt knife between the financier and the molds, then turn them out of their molds and allow them to cool to room temperature right side up on cooling racks.
Note: Although the batter can be kept for up to 3 days, once baked, financiers are best enjoyed the same day they are baked... which is rarely a problem.