In my humble opinion, February is always the toughest month of winter. The excitement and joy of the holidays is a distant memory, and while the days start to get longer, warm weather is still weeks (if not months) away. Here in Wisconsin, if you want to stay vaguely warm, leaving the house requires a parka, hat, gloves, and snow boots. Add in a mask and hand sanitizer and normal necessities like your phone, wallet and keys, and even a routine trip to the grocery store becomes a daunting task because of the amount of prep required. Perhaps in 2022, we’ll be able to take a trip to help cure the winter blues (perhaps 10 days in Italy or a quick trip to London) but this year, I’m seeking solace in an easy and delicious french pastry – the financier.
What is a financier
Crisp on the outside, moist on the inside, financiers are little cakes made with ground almonds and brown butter. They can be found in pastry shops throughout France, but unlike many French treats (like croissants, kouign amann, pain au chocolate, and really anything made with a laminated dough), they are fairly easy to make. The recipe is quite forgiving and requires no special skills to assemble and bake.
Why is it called a financier?
The origins of the name are up for debate – some say the name refers to the fact that the cakes look like little bars of gold when baked in the traditional rectangular molds. Others claim the the cakes are thusly named because they became very popular with those working in Paris’s financial district – busy bankers and stockbrokers could carry them around in their pockets for hours without damaging them and eat them when they needed a boost. I’ll add my own theory in here – maybe the name is derived from the fact that eating one for breakfast or a midday snack makes you feel like a million bucks!
How do you make financiers?
As I mentioned above, the recipe is quite straightforward and forgiving: whip egg whites to soft peaks, fold in a flour, sugar, and almond flour mixture, stir in some browned butter, and bake. Don’t be scared off by the fact that you have to whip egg whites and brown butter – both are very straightforward processes (and if you get your timing slightly wrong on either, it’s not a big deal – if your egg whites are over beaten and your brown butter is a tad pale, the financiers will still be delicious). I don’t have financier pans – I assume most of you don’t either – so I baked these in muffin tins and it worked like a charm. They were larger than traditional financiers, but no one in my house complained. Though almond flour is traditional, it could be replaced with a different finely ground nut – hazelnuts or pistachios would be particularly tasty. If you want to add a fruity element to your financiers, you could press a few berries into the batter of each cake prior to baking. Otherwise, I like to sprinkle a few slivered almonds over the batter for a bit of crunch.
A note about butter
Much of the flavor in these financiers comes from the brown butter, so I like to start out with a high quality butter such as Kerrygold or Vermont Creamery. They are higher in fat than your typical American butter, so you lose less volume to evaporation during the process of making the brown butter.
6 Tbsp butter
3 egg whites
½ tsp salt
⅔ cup almond flour
⅓ cup all purpose flour
⅔ cup salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Slivered almonds and/or berries and/or thinly sliced fruit
Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a muffin tin (this recipe makes 8-10 regular muffins or about 24 mini muffins).
Melt the butter over medium low heat in a small saucepan. When the butter begins to foam, stir constantly until the foam begins to subside and the butter turns golden brown and smells nutty (you should see browned flecks on the bottom of the pan – these are toasted milk solids). Transfer immediately to a heat proof bowl, using a spatula to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and set aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer (or a medium bowl) and beat until soft peaks have formed (if you do not have a standing mixer, you can use a handheld electric mixer or a whisk to achieve this). Note that in order to be successful here, the egg whites should be completely free of any yolk and your bowl should be clean and dry.
Gently fold the almond flour mixture into the egg yolks. Once it’s just incorporated, stir in the butter and vanilla.
Scoop the batter into muffin tins, being careful to fill them no more than halfway. Sprinkle on the slivered almonds if using or gently press a few berries or a slice of fruit onto each cake.
Bake for 25-30 minutes (less if using mini muffin tins) or until the center is set and the edges are golden brown. Enjoy any time of day as a temporary cure for the winter blues.
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Chelsea is one third of the Euro Travel Coach team (and is the daughter of the other two thirds of the team, Greg and Betsy). She has a passion for food and wine and has a background in hospitality. She attended Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and interned with two of New York City’s best restaurant groups while she was in school. After graduation she worked at the number one wine auction house in the United States, Chicago’s Hart Davis Hart Wine Co. There, she organized various wine centric events for HDH’s most valuable clients. She and her husband moved to Copenhagen, Denmark in 2016 and then to Bristol, UK in 2018 and have traveled extensively during their time living in Europe. Her expertise in food and wine and her experience living abroad helps her to find amazing accommodations, delicious restaurants, and unique experiences for Euro Travel Coach clients.
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