Financiers are the perfect delicate treat for a tête-a-tête with friends or a special someone.
After recently spending 3 weeks in Paris learning french and completing a one-day workshop at the famous Le Cordon Bleu – a much needed mini-sabbatical in life – I must confess, I am still missing the City of Lights a lot. A hell lot. Despite I’ve frequented this beautiful city several times, there is always something intriguing and captivating about it every time I go. I always discover something new amidst the mystical charm of this city and continue to be arrested by its rich culture and historical beauty.
They often call Paris the City of Love. I can understand why (and no, just as a disclaimer, I did not meet “the One”– or I think not – whilst I was there). So why am I infatuated with this city? I am in love with Paris because I feel completely content each time I visit: the feeling of freedom and serenity provides a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong and calms me down instantly.
Moreover, Paris is a truly beautiful walking city. I love the feeling of the freedom of being able to walk everywhere – along the river Seine (my favourite scenic walk), across the Jardin Des Tuileries (my favourite park), among the beautiful boulevards – and know that even when I get lost, I will be rewarded by beautiful scenery, a new cafe or bistro discovery, friendly (or not so friendly) Parisians who will be happy (or do so begrudgingly) to point me in the right direction (if not, I resort to the ever so reliable Google Maps).
One thing I really paid attention to this time round was the sheer number of patisseries that litter literally every street. I lost count of how many eclairs, millefeuilles, croissants, pain du chocolats, and macaroons I’ve consumed during my stay. I just hope that my daily attempt to walk everywhere has exceeded the number of calories I unnecessarily consume. One thing is for sure though, the patisseries are A-grade and two notches sweeter than those found in Asia (attribute it to the different palate among the races). I am not a big fan of millefueille at home (namely because no one gets it right) but when I am here, my favourite millefeuille is the praline one at Laduree (must have!). Meanwhile, on the eclair front, Christopher Adam’s L’eclair de Genie wins the crown (though be forewarned, you may be confronted with a decision-making problem if you were to only pick one amongst his impressive kaleidoscope of eclairs).
Given my nostalgia still for all things Parisian, I decided to bake something distinctly Parisian this Sunday afternoon: financiers (pronounced fee-nahng-syehr). Bonus is that I got to debut the new silicon Teflon financier moulds I bought on my trip 🙂
Before I begin, some basic trivia: did you know the financier was an early and classy form of fast food created for bankers (hence the name ‘financiers’)? They were created in the late 19th century by a pastry chef named Lasne, who had a shop on the rue Saint-Denis near the Bourse, the city’s stock exchange. Recognising bankers in the area were rich, discriminating and always in a hurry, Lasne designed his little unglazed cookie-cake so that it could be eaten without a knife, fork or spoon and without risk to the suit, shirt or tie. He baked the financiers in rectangular moulds that were said to resemble bars of gold.
Financiers are as rich as the bankers they were named for. The batter is made by combining flour with ground almonds and powdered sugar. To that is added lightly beaten egg whites, vanilla extract and brown butter, beurre noisette (or melted unsalted butter will do). They are baked until golden brown in rectangular pans to resemble ingots.
These cakes are beautiful in their simplicity. Sweet, tender, and available in a multitude of variations (throw in some berries or nuts if you wish), they are deliciously soft and have a nutty flavour from the brown butter. Perfect to have alone, they can also be paired harmoniously with a cup of coffee or tea as a great treat during a tête-a-tête with friends or a special someone 😉
- 5 egg whites, room temperature
- 140g unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
- 100g almond meal
- 40g plain flour
- 90g icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting
- 2x punnets or fresh raspberries or 200g of frozen raspberries
- Preheat an oven to 180C (350F). Melt butter and cool to room temperature. Grease a 6-hole rectangular pan well (or muffin tin) with butter.
- In a large mixing bowl, lightly whisk the egg whites to just combine.
- Add the melted butter, almond meal, flour and sifted icing sugar and combine well. Stir in vanilla bean paste (or essence).
- Mix in three quarters of the raspberries into the batter and pour into prepared pans to two thirds full.
- Place two or three raspberries on top of each financier and bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted comes out the center clean.
- Let the financiers cool slightly and then remove from the pan carefully and dust lightly with icing sugar.
- Serve warmed and with extra fresh raspberries, if you like.