There’s no bad time for these little bits of heaven that use just 6 ingredients and take under 15 minutes to bake
Truth be told, in good times and bad, it’s always time for a financier. The little French almond cakes, leavened with egg whites, moistened with brown butter, are often tiny treats offered to restaurant guests with the presentation of l’addition. Andrew’s version is a little larger than those Mignardises as they are called. He used mini-muffin tins in this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. It needs just six ingredients and bakes in less than 15 minutes. You can add either berries or sliced almonds or chocolate chips. All you need is a whisk, a bowl, and a muffin tin and a rack to turn them out onto. They’ll deliver a tiny cake with a moist interior that’s sweet and nutty with a crust that’s crisp as an apple. We think you likely have everything you need in your pantry. If you do not have almond flour, you can grind your own in the food processor. And like all great foods, this one comes with a story.
Thanks to Paris’s Eric Kayser, New York now has Financiers both on and off Wall Street.
The Financier didn’t really come onto the culinary radar in New York until quite recently. In our house, it came with the opening of Maison Kayser, the incredibly successful Parisian bakery that was founded in 1996 and now has over 100 patisseries in 20 countries. Fortunately, there is one on the walk from Andrew’s office. Every Friday, he would bring home financiers as a special treat. Stuck at home, his baking tools all out at the beach, he yearned to bake. And much to his delight, he discovered that Zabar’s, the 80-year-old New York landmark, was open for business both downstairs, where the food is, and upstairs, where the housewares are. Armed with his mini-muffin tin, he was ready to conquer these two-bite treats. And I was ready to find out how they got their name.
Just exactly who invented the first Financiers?
In 1890, “Memorial Historique de la Patisserie” author Pierre Lacam, credited the financier to a baker named Lasne, proprietor of a patisserie on the Rue St. Denis in Paris. The bakery was in the heart of the financial district and very near La Bourse, the stock market. Lasne baked his cakes in rectangular molds and the finished cake resembled a bar of gold. Did Lasne do this to please his clientele of financiers? Or did the cake become popular among financiers because it could fit in one’s pocket for long periods of time without falling apart? As with all great food, there’s a little controversy over whether Lasne’s recipe was an original. It was not. A cake with nuts, egg whites, and brown butter was made by nuns who were members of the Order of the Visitation. The nuns, whose members served the sick and the poor, relieved the misery of their visits with this wonderful treat.
How to bake the Perfect Financier:
Now on to some steps that will help you make the perfect financier. Browning the butter is what gives the almond cake its incredible flavor. To do so, you need to heat the butter over medium-low heat until it begins to brown and smells nutty. Don’t rush this process and watch over it carefully. Once the butter starts to brown, it will burn easily. Take it off the heat the moment it becomes the color of a chestnut. Undercooking the butter will not deliver the aroma that makes these cakes so irresistible. Low and slow and watched over are the keywords here. One other thing: this recipe requires Baker’s Joy, a baking spray with flour. If you don’t have baking spray, you can very lightly spray the muffin tin with vegetable oil spray (Pam) and very lightly flour the cups followed by a second more generous spry of vegetable oil spray. And here is the recipe:
Financiers (Almond-Browned Butter Cakes)
A wonderfully almondy browned buttery two-bite treat with a chewy rich center and a crisp outer shell.
- 5 tbsp. unsalted butter
- ¾ cup (3 oz) finely ground almond flour
- ½ cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
- 1/8 tsp. table salt
- 1/3 cup (3 oz.) egg whites (3-4 large eggs)
- Step 1 Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Generously spray 24-cup mini-muffin tin with baking spray with flour (See above). Melt butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring and scraping skillet with a rubber spatula until milk solids are dark golden brown and it has a nutty brown around (about 3 minutes). Immediately transfer butter to a heatproof bowl.
- Step 2 Whisk almond flour, sugar, all-purpose flour and salt in a second bowl. Add egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, stir until combined, mashing any lumps against the side of the bowl until the mixture is smooth. Stir in butter until incorporated. Distribute batter evenly among prepared muffin cups (cups will be about half full). If you are adding anything to the top, now is the time to do it. Simply drop fresh berries, dark chocolate chunks, citrus zest or nuts onto the batter.
- Step 3 Bake until edges are well-browned and tops are golden, about 14 minutes, rotating muffin tin halfway through baking. Remove the tin from the oven and immediately invert wire rack on top of the tin. Invert rack and tin. Carefully remove the tin. Turn cakes right side up and let cook for at least 20 minutes before serving. To enjoy the crisp edges of cakes, eat them the day you bake them. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.