Financiers, aka friands, are little almond cakey things not dissimilar to madeleines but slightly more substantial.
Bullion bar biscuits
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 due to their shape.
When baked in genuine tins, they look like little gold bullion bars. No surprise, since they were developed by the end of the 19th century by Parisian pâtissiers from the vicinity of French stock exchange.
As they became the favoured snack of the banker suits, they 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 a 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 are usually all gone in a couple of days.
Buttering tins aside, they are the ‘mix everything together’ type of cakes.
Madeleines vs. financiers
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.
The difference is subtle but distinct. Madeleines contain only a little plain and almond flour so the result is very airy and very spongy.
Madeleines, when baked, should be barely coloured, pale and dainty while financiers look like mini cakes, no doubt about it. The flour content of madeleines is less than half compared to friands – so they are ghostly and ethereal and very Proustian.
I’ll wager M. Proust picked the cake purely because ‘madeleine’ is more romantic than ‘financier’.
Still, these little beauties can give you – albeit not Proustian – 24 totally blissful moments.
How to make brown butter
The key ingredient both in madeleines and financiers is beurre noisette, nutty or brown butter.
It is basically clarified butter which has been given a couple more minutes on the hob. As the butter melts and heats up, the milky protein particles separate and drop to the bottom of the pan.
This is a care-requiring process as they need to nearly burn: the buttery smell turns distinctly nutty and that’s what you need to watch for. Snatch the pan off the hob, strain the butter into a clean bowl and that’s it.
But note that you might want to make double the amount to keep in the fridge as an indulgent substitute for ordinary butter.
How to mix financier batter
As mentioned above, this is batter simply mixed in a bowl. All the dry ingredients including lemon zest are stirred together and the egg whites, lightly beaten just to break them up, are mixed in to form a paste.
Brown butter with some honey, for the flavour, is then added and that’s all there is to it.
As I said, if it wasn’t for the preparation of the tin, I could whip them up every other day.
You might think there’s a simple solution to that painstaking buttering: muffin cases.
That’s true but I’m a little reluctant to use them. These are no ordinary muffins after all. Sticking them into muffin cases feels slightly denigrating. Or perhaps I’m just a financier snob?
Whether in vulgar cases or refinedly nude, baking takes just under fifteen minutes in a fairly hot oven, until the financiers are golden and the almond flakes sprinkled on top are lovely and toasted.
More French biscuits recipes
Mouchous, traditional macarons basques, easier to make than the Parisian variety but just as delicious though presented individually and quite rustic compared to Paris macarons.
Orange dacquoise biscuits, chewy almond cookies made with egg whites, are like a meringue that changed its mind at the last minute and turned into sponge batter.
Poilâne corn sablé biscuits, made to the recipe from Poilâne bakery with very fine corn flour, look like little suns. Sablés are French shortbreads: sandy coloured and deliciously crunchy.
More almond pastry recipes
Almond cake with fresh raspberries, flavoured with cinnamon and lemon zest. It’s flourless, dairy and gluten free, yet wonderfully airy and soft.
Swedish almond caramel cake, Toscakaka, is a lovely and easy cake to make ahead. Bake the base in advance, then add caramel topping and blast it under the grill just before serving.
Ricciarelli, almond shaped and almond flavoured biscuits from Siena, traditionally made and gifted for Christmas. An authentic recipe for these delightful marzipan sweets.