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Petit gâteau financier aux amandes – doesn’t it sound better than boring old ‘financiers biscuit’? Of course it does; any dessert sounds better in French. Especially this dainty, buttery piece of almondy delight; though it is very unlike a macaron, another morceau of delight aux amandes.
Financiers, known Down Under as friands, are called this perhaps due to their shape; baked in the genuine tins, they look like little gold bullion bars. Another, more pragmatic explanation is that they were the favoured snack of the banker suits and had to be dainty and neat, in order not to mess up said suits.
If it wasn’t for the fact that these little cakes require about half an hour’s hard work buttering and flouring 24 mini muffin tin, I’d be making them every week. Twenty four sounds like a lot of cakes but it really isn’t. Mine were all gone in a couple of days.
Buttering tins aside, they are the ‘mix everything together’ type of cakes. Beurre noisette, nutty or brown butter, which is the key element of financiers apart from the ground almonds, is basically clarified butter given a couple more minutes on the hob. The milky protein particles that will have dropped to the bottom of the pan while the butter is melting need to nearly burn; the buttery smell turns distinctly nutty and that’s what you need to watch for. Strain it and that’s it; except you might want to make double the amount to keep in the fridge as an indulgent substitute for ordinary butter.
When you think of a French gateaux aux amandes, tiny and elegant, just basically egg whites, butter and copious amounts of chic, madeleines come to mind, with their Proustian flavours and le temps perdu. I’ll wager M. Proust picked the cake purely because ‘madeleine’ is more romantic than ‘financier’. These little beauties can give you – albeit not Proustian – 24 totally blissful moments.
financiersServings: 24 mini or 12 muffin sized cakesTime: 40 minutes
- 100g (7 tbsp.) unsalted butter plus 1 tbsp. to grease the tin
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 40g (5 tbsp.) plain flour, plus more for dusting
- 130g (1 cup) icing sugar
- 140g (1½ cup) ground almonds
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- zest grated from 1 lemon
- 3 egg whites (90g), lightly beaten
- 2 tbsp. flaked almonds
1. Prepare the tin by buttering very thoroughly each hole, bottom and sides, in a 24-mini muffin tin (you can use ordinary muffin tin but the financiers won’t be as prettily dainty). Liberally sprinkle flour over the tin and turn it around to coat each hole. Shake off excess flour. Chill the tin in the fridge while you’re preparing the brown butter and making the mix.
2. Place the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Let it foam, sizzle and spit but start watching when it goes quiet – that’s when it goes quite quickly. When the milky particles have all dropped to the bottom of the pan and turned very dark brown, it’s ready.
3. Strain the butter into a clean bowl – you should get about 80g brown butter – stir in the honey and put aside to cool down.
4. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.
5. In a large bowl stir together the flour, icing sugar, ground almonds, salt and lemon zest. Add the egg whites and stir to a paste. Mix in the butter and stir until it is absorbed and the mixture is smooth.
6. Spoon the batter into the tins; they will be nearly full. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and bake for 13 minutes (15-16 for the muffin-sized ones), until golden and slightly darker around the edges.
7. Remove from the oven and cool the financiers in the tin for at least 10 minutes. Carefully remove from the tin, with help of a thin sharp knife if necessary (that’s where it turns out how well you prepared the tin!).
8. The financiers will keep for a week in an airtight container.