Today we are baking Financiers for the French Friday with Dorie group.
It is usually said that these small French almond cakes were created around 1890, by the pâtissier Lasne whose bakery was located near the Paris stock exchange. Lasne knew that his clients who were working in the financial district, were not only wealthy but also always in a hurry. So he came up with the idea to create a small and elegant little cake that could be eaten by his clients without any utensils and without risking a stain on their clothing.
But before Lasne created the financiers for his clients, however, it should be mentioned that since the Middle Ages, the Sisters of the Order of the Visitation (les sœurs de l'ordre des visitandines) used to bake small, oval, and soft delicious almond cakes. But like most almond pastries, these little delicacies experienced a rather dark period after the Renaissance. Potassium cyanide smells much like bitter almonds and it was rumored that the lovely Catherine de` Medici and her followers had the unfortunate propensity to give poisoned gifts to certain personae non gratae. Therefore, it was taboo for centuries to bake anything containing almonds. But in 1890, it is said that the talented pâtissier Lasne breathed new life into the original recipe. Lasne also had the idea (très marketing) to change the oval shape of the original small cakes to a rectangular shape to evoke the association of a gold ingot – hence, the Financiers were born!
Financiers are certainly as rich as the bankers they were named for. They consist of ground almonds (100 grams), white sugar (200 grams), unwhipped egg whites (6 large), plain flour (90 grams), and a good amount of unsalted melted butter (170 grams), which can be cooked until it is golden brown (beurre noisette).
Not only is the list of ingredients nice and short but the Financiers are also very easy to make. All you have to do is butter and flour about 12 financier molds, a 12-hole mini muffin pan, or other pretty little cake pans or molds and put them in the fridge so the butter sets. You melt the butter for the dough in a pan until it starts to brown and strain through a fine sieve. Set aside. Mix the almonds and sugar in a pan, stir in the egg whites and gently heat for two minutes. Add flour and butter and chill the batter overnight. Pour the mixture into the molds and bake for 15-18 minutes (depending on the exact size of your pans) until golden brown and risen in the center. Cool very slightly before taking them out of the cake pans or molds.
You can get really creative with this recipe, I have seen such additions as blueberries, raspberries, pineapples and kumquats, hazelnuts or pistachios instead of the almonds, herbs such as rosemary or thyme, lemon and many more. I decided to add strawberries and pistachios. We have seen a lot of strawberries in stores lately and while they might not be the sweetest yet, they were perfect for these Financiers as they held their shape even when I added them to the dough…
…and delicious alongside the ground pistachios.
As I do not own any Financier molds, I decided to use my tiny vintage Mondamin cake molds. At first I was not sure about being able to unmold these little cakes from these vintage molds, but a while ago, I read in one of the many recipes that I looked at that if you place the buttered and floured molds in the fridge for a few minutes before baking, the cakes will unmold easily – be that as it may, it worked.
Overall, these almond cakes are very pretty and not overly sweet. They are also simple to bake, very versatile, and just perfect served with coffee or tea. And they can be made ahead and be brought to a picnic or even be kept for a nice weekend dinner party.
To see how pretty the Financiers of all the other Doristas turned out, please click here.