13 January 2007

Financiers

Financiers is a funny name for little almond-flavored sweet cakes. Here's all I know about the origin of the term: there's a theory that they are often made in Switzerland (think bankers) and that they are shaped like gold bars.

The ones I make are not necessarily shaped like that. I don't have a special pan to make them in. But since we arrived in France in 2003, I've been enjoying financiers a couple of times a year. They are delicious. I want to share the recipe.

Financiers have two distinctive features compared to other cakes. They are made with egg whites only — no yolk (ha ha ha). And the dry ingredients include equal amounts of flour and almond powder.

Financiers à ma façon

I end up with a lot of egg whites chez moi because I use the yolks to make mayonnaise and to enrich sauces, cakes, and other preparations. Today, for example, I'm making a meat pie called a tourte lorraine that calls for three egg yolks to bind and set the meat filling.

What can you do with the egg whites? You can put them in a plastic container in the freezer. I put them in a container big enough so that I can just keep adding egg whites to it over time, until I have enough (eight, in this case) to make a good batch of financiers.

Evidently, the little cakes were originally oval-shaped. Mine aren't.

Here's the recipe I used the other day when I realized I had eight egg whites in the freezer. My translated version follows. You might notice that I double the Marmiton recipe. Remember that French recipes require that you use a kitchen scale to measure out the ingredients.

Financiers
  • 100 grams (3½ oz. ) almond powder (ground almonds)
  • 100 grams (3½ oz. ) flour
  • 300 grams (10½ oz.) sugar
  • 150 grams (5 oz.) sweet butter
  • 8 egg whites
  • a splash of vanilla extract
  • a drop or two of pure almond extract (optional)
  • pinch of salt
Pre-heat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC.

Butter the pan you plan to cook the cake or cakes in. (You're supposed to make individual cakes, but I use a 9" x 9" cake pan and then cut the cake into squares after it's cooked and cooled.)

Mix together the almond powder, flour, and sugar. (For the sake of precision, I specify the weights down to the half-ounce, but I'm sure it would be fine to put in 4 oz. each of flour and almond powder and either 10 or 11 oz. of sugar.)

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they are pretty stiff and dry. Melt the butter and add it to the dry ingredients along with the egg whites. Stir it all together and add the vanilla and (optional) almond extract.

Pour the batter into a pan and cook it until it is golden and set. Test it with a toothpick or knife to make sure it's done. Cut the cake into squares after it's cooled or, if you've made individual cakes, you can take them out of the pan immediately.
If you want to make the financiers in a muffin tin, don't put much batter into each cup. The cakes shouldn't be more than about an inch thick.

One more picture of my financier squares

5 comments:

  1. Financiers are one of my favourites and it's the first time I see a recipe for them. I just buy one at the boulangerie du coin, usually.
    Yours look yummy!

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  2. You may consider specifying the quantity of egg whites by weight as you do the other ingredients. In the US, an egg white from a large egg weighs 30 grams whereas in France it weighs 33 grams. For eight eggs, the difference is almost another egg white! Of course with either amount, I sure the result still tastes great.

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  3. Peter, I've never weighed them! I'm not even sure whether the eggs I buy are medium or large. (I just went and looked at the carton and they are calibre moyen — medium caliber.)

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  4. According to my mother-in-law, the reason so many of the old recipes handed down from her mother and grandmother didn't turn out the way she expected is the eggs. A couple of generations ago, the eggs you bought from the farmer were the equivalent to our extra-large or jumbo. You can get the same results with medium eggs, but it requires some experimentation.

    It took a bit of getting used to, but I've come to really like recipes that specify ingredients by weight, particularly for baking. Those financiers of yours look delightful.

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  5. Susan, the recipes I'm finding and using don't give weights for egg whites, but they seem to work fine. I guess they are written for the ingredients that you get in France.

    On a French cooking show on TV tonight, a pastry chef was making a cake that required a lot of beaten egg whites. The host asked him "Combien de blanc(s) d'oeuf(s) faut-il?" You can't tell whether the question is in the plural (how many?) or singular (how much?) when you are hearing but not seeing the French question. The chef replied: "300 grammes" — so he gave the quantity as weight, not number.

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