Sweet. Savory. Seasonal. These are three of my favorite themes when it comes to pastry and these beguiling little almond cakes epitomize this trio in the most delectably charming way imaginable. This diminutive delight is a lightly sweetened buttery almond cake, scented with a hint of fresh rosemary, brightened by freshly grated lemon zest and crowned with a sun ripen blackberry picked at its peak.
Financiers are French in origin and culinary historians attribute the moniker to a Parisian pastry shop in the late 1800s located near the Paris Stock Exchange. Traditionally, Financiers are rectangle shaped, and in the 19th Century were said to resemble gold bars, hence the name. The base of this recipe, minus the addition of the rosemary, lemon zest and blackberry, is the traditional Financier and you may very easily omit these ingredients to make this version.
Recipe yields 20 petite cakes, although that may vary according to the molds or pan you use.
3/4 cup (1 ½ sticks/ 185 grams) unsalted butter
6 large (198 grams) egg whites
1/2 cup (63 grams) all purpose unbleached flour
1 cup (96 grams) ground almonds, almond meal or almond flour
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon very finely chopped fresh rosemary
Zest of 1 lemon, organic
Pinch of salt
How to use them:
Place the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Butter the molds and refrigerate. Here I used brioche cups, however a muffin or cupcake pan will work just as well.Melt the butter in a small saucepan on medium heat until it reaches the beurre noisette stage and set aside. This French term literally translates to hazelnut butter, because the butter is heated right until the moment you see specs of brown bits and it exudes the fragrant aroma of roasted hazelnuts.
Whisk the egg whites until slightly frothy, approximately 1 minute.
Sift the sugar, flour and almond meal in a medium bowl. Add a pinch of salt, the chopped rosemary and lemon zest. Whisk to combine thoroughly. Make a well in the center of the mixture and the add egg whites. Gently whisk in the eggs until fully incorporated. You want to whisk slowly to avoid lumps forming.
Gradually pour in the brown butter and whisk to incorporate. You can see the flecks of the brown butter bits that add the most aromatic nuttiness to the cakes.Using a small spoon or a small scoop like I have here, fill your mold or pan of choice 2/3 of the way up. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges are a golden brown color. If you would like to add blackberries as I have her, bake for about 6 minutes until the batter has set around the edges but is still soft in the center. Take the cakes out of the oven and carefully place a fresh blackberry into the center. Try to work gently, but quickly. Return to the oven and bake for another 4-6 minutes or until the Financiers have become golden brown around the edges and are springy to the touch. Remove the financiers from oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack.
Just over 18 years ago, I spent a sleepless 24 hours backpacking through Paris. Back then, the Financier was exactly the kind of pastry that I could never afford to purchase as lowly, poor student with limited funds to spend on pricey pastries. So I created this recipe as a bit of redemption and a piece of Paris to indulge in. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family and friends do.