Financiers are a basic standard in the repertoire of any pastry chef. A simple cake consisting of egg whites, powdered sugar, almond flour and a good bit of browned butter, they are traditionally baked in small bar molds and served as a mignardise or petit four at the end of the meal. They are rich, toothsome and best enjoyed as a small bite. The history around this traditional French cake comes from the Parisian financial district and the clever bakers in the surrounding shops. They developed sturdy little butter cakes, said to hold up well in pockets, to sustain the financial workers in their neighborhoods. Another theory is the name came from the traditional rectangular mold said to resemble a bar of gold. I suspect it’s a combination of both. These pâtisseries practiced a key business rule early on: know your customer. Marketing via the late 1800’s.
I’ve baked financier in the traditional bar shaped molds and I’ve also used mini muffin tins, ovals and damn near every shape. It’s a fairly sturdy little cake that takes well to nearly every configuration. I’ve baked them plain, I’ve poked a booze soaked piece of fruit in the middles, and I’ve piped a thick jam into the center halfway through baking. All are great. When I worked at a fine dining restaurant, our staple parting gift to our diners to enjoy the next morning was a bag of two fat financiers filled with a delicious pineapple jam. I was tasked with making them every morning and I can personally vouch for their breakfast appropriateness.
Today for the last day of February to wrap up this month of chocolate, I have chocolate financiers with a fat, bourbon soaked cherry plunked in the center. As we know, bourbon makes everything better. The batter is simple; powdered sugar, almond flour, cocoa and egg whites with just over a stick of butter, browned to a nutty golden hue. No matter the flavor or the inclusions, browned butter is a constant in financier recipes. Just before baking each little cake gets a fat, boozy cherry in the center. Chocolate and bourbon cherries are a winning combination in my book.
Quickly, let’s talk about cocoa power. I greatly prefer an alkalized, or dutch-process cocoa powder. It is darker in color than regular cocoa, which tends to bake up kind of muddy looking, and to my tastes, it is richer in flavor. The dark, sometimes bordering on blackish, color gives the perception that it tastes more chocolate-y than maybe it does. To put it simply, I like how it looks and I like how it tastes. Sometimes I’ll even special order extra dark or black cocoa from King Arthur Flour. That being said, for this batch I used a “regular” cocoa powder because I had a lot of it hanging around and they baked up and tasted a bit lighter than if I had used a dutched powder. Use what you have – both will be delicious – but be aware of the difference in the end product.
If there’s one piece of advice I can impart onto you with this recipe, it is this: spray those molds well. A stuck financier is a sad financier. Give those molds a really good coating. If you have silicone molds, now is the time to use them. It is so much easier to pop a baked financier out of silicone mold than a metal pan, especially if there is any sticking. Your life will be so much easier and joyful.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: A LITTLE FANCY PANTS. Sometimes it’s nice to make sweet, little pretty things. These little cakes fit that bill very nicely. If you’re planning a baby shower, an afternoon tea or having friends over dinner and need a little something to serve after dinner with coffee, well here you go. Or maybe take a page out of the fine dining handbook and pack up little gift bags for your guests to take home and enjoy the next morning. A nice chocolate bite, rich and buttery, with a boozy surprise makes for quite a nice breakfast treat. It’s a time-honored classic for a reason.
Eight years ago: Khachpuri (cheesy Georgian bread)
Seven years ago: Stovetop Smoked Salmon
Six years ago: Chocolate Cabernet Sauce
Five years ago: Whatchamacallit Brownies
Four years ago: Chocolate Pudding Cake
Three years ago: Chocolate Crème Filled Cupcakes
Two years ago: Flourless Chocolate Cookies
Last year: Dark Chocolate Tapioca Pudding
CHOCOLATE CHERRY FINANCIER
yield: it really depends upon your pan/mold size; I got about 60 petit four size financiers in my pans
Please note, you need to plan ahead – the batter must refrigerate overnight – but will keep for many days. If you prefer dark rum to bourbon, use it or skip entirely. The batter will keep for several days in the refrigerator but the cakes are best the day they’re baked.
9 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon mild honey, such as clover or wildflower
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or extract)
1 ¾ cup powdered sugar
¾ cup almond flour
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup Dutch process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup egg whites
2 teaspoons bourbon
¼ cup dried cherries
2 Tablespoons bourbon
- on day 1: Place a small strainer over a bowl and set aside.
- In a small saucepan over medium-low melt the butter and let slowly cook until the milk solids begin to brown and the mixture smells nutty. Let it go until the milk solids become a very dark brown; this could take up to 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, strain into the prepared bowl to remove the darkened milk solids. Discard the solids.
- Add the honey and vanilla paste to the browned butter and set aside to cool until needed.
- Sift the powdered sugar, almond flour, all-purpose flour, cocoa and baking powder into the mixing bowl of a standing mixer (or a large mixing bowl.)
- On low-speed with the whisk attachment (or with a hand mixer on low), add the egg whites and mix until just combined. Scrape and switch to the paddle attachment if using a stand mixer.
- On low, slowly add the bourbon and browned butter mixture. Mix until smooth and just combined.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl and chill overnight.
- While the batter is chilling, add the dried cherries and the bourbon to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Remove from the heat, cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit to plump until needed. Can do 1 day in advance.
- on day 2: Preheat oven to 325°F and place a rack in the lower third.
- Transfer the batter to a pastry bag, spray pans with cooking spray and almost to the top with the chilled batter. (If using silicone molds, place on a sheet pan for extra support.)
- Place a plumped cherry on top (depending on the size of your pans you may want to cut the cherry in half) and bake until set and the top springs back to the touch – timing depends on the size of your pans, mine took about 12 minutes. It’s important not to overbake so do a test bake first.
- Let the pans cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes (if using silicone molds remove from the hot sheet pan) then turn out to a wire rack to cool fully. Financiers are best served the day they’re baked but they’ll stay pretty soft for a day or two, tightly wrapped.