The little rectangular almond cakes known as financiers are sold in many of the best pastry shops in Paris. Perfect financiers are about as addictive as chocolate. The finest have a firm, crusty exterior and a moist, almondy interior, tasting almost as if they were filled with almond paste. Next to the classic madeleine, the financier is probably the most popular little French cake.
It was created by pâtissier Lasne, who had a pastry shop near the Paris stock exchange in the late 19th century. An entrepreneurial man, he modernized a pastry recipe from the middle ages, inventing a small, tidy pastry resembling a bar of gold.
His rich banking clientele could eat the pastry on the run, dirtying neither their hands nor their suits. Financier, of course, means “banker” in French. The secret to a good financier is in the use of top-quality ingredients, as well as in the baking:
For a good crust, it must begin in a hot oven. The temperature is then reduced, keeping the interior nice and moist.
16 individual 2- by 4-inch tin financier molds or muffin tins.
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 ½ cups almond meal
1⅔ cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ cup large egg whites (the whites from 5 to 6 large eggs), preferably organic and free-range
1. Center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
2. With a pastry brush, thoroughly butter the financier molds, using some of the melted and cooled butter. Arrange the molds side by side but not touching on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet with the molds in the freezer for at least 20 minutes to solidify the butter. This will help the financiers to unmold easily.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the almond meal, sugar, flour and salt. Whisk in the egg whites a little at a time just until thoroughly blended. Gently whisk in the butter until thoroughly blended. The mixture will be fairly thin.
4. Pour or spoon the batter into the molds, filling them almost to the rim. Place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake until the financiers are pale gold and begin to firm up, about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400°F and bake 7 minutes more. Turn off the oven, keeping the door closed. Leave the financiers sitting in the warm oven for 7 minutes.
5. Remove the financiers from the oven and let them cool in the molds for 10 minutes, then unmold them onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 16 financiers.
NOTE: Almond meal (sometimes called almond flour) is made from whole, unblanched (skin on) almonds. For this recipe, whole, unblanched almonds can be finely ground in a food processor. Do not over process.
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from “The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris” by Patricia Wells. ©1999 Workman Publishing.