brown butter financiers
Historically, I have not been what you would consider a "baker". If my oven is on, it's almost always to roast veggies, mainly beets (I haven't received a beet-free CSA box in about ten months and I am exhausted). I blame my lack of a real sweet tooth--while Jake huddles in dark corners like Smeagol, trying to eat his fill before he's discovered with his mouth and shirtfront dusted in telltale icing sugar, I would much rather spend my precious calories splurging on salty, buttery, fatty carbs. And because I am a lush, I will always go for a glass of aged Tawny port over a chocolate cake at the end of a meal.
However, there has been a gradual shift over the last year or two due to my fanatical obsession with GBBO, which I have watched entirely legally*, as I have been cautiously dipping a (not literal) toe into the sugary, buttery, floury world of desserts. (I also realized that I tend to use the word "baking" to describe all manner of foods-that-are-not-savory, and I really do know better, but it's proven to be a sticky little habit to shake).
The first thing that really knocked me for a loop was a superb tarte tatin I made when I had a glut of apples slowly wasting away on my counter top. I really can't be sure what came over me, but a short ingredient list coupled with ready-made puff pastry instead of the classic pate brisee was enough to tip the scales. I served it still warm, topped with creme fraiche (of course), and the dining table fell silent. The frantic sound of forks scarping on plates was the only conversation, and everyone kept looking up at each other with wide eyes, wondering why Americans even bothered to invent apple pie.
This magnificent revelation was followed by a long and painful session spent with Jake making creme caramels. Some turned out okay--tasty enough, if not exactly beautiful--and others ended up frustratingly stuffed back into the oven, re-made as a desperate attempt at ersatz creme brulee as we stood around with hands held high and covered in mustard. I kept the tarte tatin in my repertoire but turned the rest of my current attentions to other desserts not calling for molten lava as the primary ingredient.
While it will be a while before I start developing my own baking recipes, I've been served in good stead by David Leibovitz and Dorie Greenspan in particular. With their help, I've successfully turned out madeleines with respectably modest humps, and a brown sugar and rhubarb upside down cake that was so satisfying I vowed never to use rhubarb for any other, lesser purpose. But the simplest, and easiest, treat that I come back to when the cravings are inversely proportionate to the amount of time I have is a perfectly warmed financier made with brown butter.
These are perfect for an afternoon snack or light dessert (or dinner, if you're an independent woman who don't need no man). The brown butter gives that famously nutty depth of flavor that you can't really get elsewhere, and it creates pretty speckles on the cakes that remind me of robin's eggs (I do not recommend trying to make these blue). I bake them in regular muffin tins, though there is currently a financier pan in our wedding registry just waiting to further enable my addiction.
You'll also have four egg yolks left over; I don't bake enough to have an automatic use for them and I am not the type to have more than one dessert made at a time, so I cured them in sugar and salt and they turned out GREAT. Punchy and assertive, you can use them anywhere you would grate Parmesan cheese and they last even longer in the fridge. Alternately, you could use the leftover yolks in a frittata, or add them to any type of custard if, unlike me, your metabolism is still allowing you to live your best life.
A note about oven pre-heating: I find that I have the greatest success when I allow enough time for the oven to go through two or three heat cycles prior to baking. This isn't a must, but it's a simple step that has really elevated the quality of my bakes.
*I am lying.
brown butter financiers
adapted from My Paris Kitchen
- 3/4 cup almond meal (aka flour, aka powder--look in the bulk bins or for Bob's Red Mill)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 6 Tbsp a.p. flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder (aluminum free if you have it)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into a few pieces
- 125ml or 4 large egg whites (since these can vary so much, you may want to weigh them)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond meal, powdered sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan (or treat yo'self to a butter pan!) over medium heat and stand by. It will sputter as it cooks and then regain its composure, so keep your wits about you. When it's leaning toward the color of maple syrup and starts to smell nutty and toasty, remove it immediately from the stove and let it cool until just tepid. If you're worried it might go too far/burn while it's cooling, transfer it to a heat-proof bowl immediately.
Stir the egg whites into the dry ingredients, then begin stirring in the browned butter gently and gradually, a few tablespoons at a time. It will be worryingly fatty when you add each butter addition but begins to incorporate quickly. I like to make sure each addition is fully on board before I move on to the next addition. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or even overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400' and butter the insides of a non-stick regular sized muffin tin. I use a 1.5" scoop like the one in this scoop set (highly recommend!!) and it perfectly fills each 3/4 of the way full. Rap the pan on the counter so that the batter spreads out a bit, then bake for about 15 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean and the centers spring back when touched.
Remove from the oven and let cool for five minutes, then tilt the financiers out of the pan onto the cooling rack. You can store them for up to five days in an airtight container on the counter.
I served them here with macerated strawberries, which you can make by sprinkling a teaspoon or two of sugar over sliced strawberries, stir, and let sit for 20-30 minutes. The amount of sugar depends on the sweetness of your strawberries, but stir a few times while you let it sit, taste, and add more if you think it needs it.