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Monday, August 18, 2008

Financiers - plain, jammy, or fruity - just the way you like it!


My quest for the perfect old-school madeleines recipe before has been quite well-documented here on Chez Pim.  I've got the recipe down now, and that's the one I go to every time I want to make a batch.  But what about the cousin of those Proustian bites, the financiers?  You might wonder why I've never written it up before.  Well, that's probably because it's hardly been a quest.  It's one of those rare, lucky times when you do something once and hit the jackpot straight away.

I supposed I shouldn't be surprised that the recipe turned out such perfect, Platonian ideal of the form considering the source, Dorie Greenspan.  Ok, it's actually Jean Luc Poujauran's recipe from his famous Boulangerie Poujauran in Paris, as interpreted by our dear Dorie.  When Jean Luc Poujauran still ran his bakery full time, they consistently turned out perhaps the best financiers in town--my friend David Lebovitz agreed.  This Poujauran-Greenspan financiers recipe was printed in "Paris Sweets", one of my all-time favorite pastry books.  Dorie even posted the recipe on her blog last year.

Most sources on the web claim that financiers are made from a sort of sponge cake batter made with almond powder and whipped egg whites and baked into rectangular mold.  That statement, frankly, has just about as much truth in it as saying that madeleines are basically pound cake batter baked into scalloped molds.  (Don't even get me started on those Donsuemor's madeleines you get at your Starbucks.)  Not Dorie's recipe!  Hers produces perfect representations of what an ideal financier should be, with a texture that is neither that of a cake nor of a cookie, but something of a cross between the two.  It's dense yet tender, with a requisite contrast between the crisp crust and soft (but not cake-y) interior.  This is partly because the egg whites, the only leavening in the batter, are not whipped, but simply stirred into the batter over a gentle heat.  Also, the butter used in the recipe is not simply melted or clarified, but let cook until it reaches the point of being brown butter, or beurre noisette, enhancing the nuttiness of the almond batter.


The shape is really quite besides the point, unless you are a stickler to tradition like me--I insist on baking mine only in these thin tin molds I bought at DeHillerin years ago.  It does, however, have something to do with the name.  According to a story I've heard, Dorie has a more detailed version of the same one on her blog, a baker near Le Bourse or Paris's stock exchange came up with the idea of these cakes to sell to the financiers in the neighborhood, hence the name.  The shape of these petits gateaux was designed to resemble gold ingots as a nod to the profession of his customers.

Besides the original rectangular molds, you can bake this batter into little boat-shape molds or even, as Dorie said she had done for many years, in your ordinary, everyday muffin tins.  I think keeping the size of these financiers small is key to the great contrast between the crust and the crumb inside, so I wouldn't suggest baking them in a regular cake pan or a big tart pan.

I must admit one thing though, as perfect as the recipe turned out even the very first time I made it, I have been tinkering with it.  As a proper foodie I could hardly leave a great recipe well enough alone.  How did I change mine, you wonder?  Well, I don't know that I can give you all my secrets now that I am doing this for a living--yeah right, more like an expensive hobby, ha!  Well, for one thing, I've been adding slivers of fresh nectarine or peach on top of the batter in the mold, pressing them down gently to partially settle into it.  In the winter I also make it with a little bit of green tea powder in the batter.  Dorie also suggests you add a dollop or two of jam right on top.  That works pretty well too.  The point here, I guess, is once you learn how to do the perfect financiers, you can easily add your own touches to make them just the way--aha, aha--you like it--aha, aha.  (Yeah babe!)  Don't you just love recipes like that.

What are you waiting for then?  Go over to Dorie's blog and get the recipe--or, better yet, buy a copy of her book.  Don't forget to let me know how yours turn out when you're done!


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