When I make crème anglais (custard), ice cream and lemon curd, I have a lot of leftover egg whites. But I don’t throw these away Instead I store or freeze them to use later in meringues, buttercream, angel food cake, pavlova, mousse, nougat, marshmallow and financieres. The latter were created in the late 1800s by a bakery near the Paris Bourse, currently being renovated and opening in 2020 as the Pinault Collection.
The cakes were named and made for the wealthy bankers who frequented the shop. They’re rich with brown butter, small and crumbless for portability, shaped like a gold bar – ideal for a busy banker or handy for a cyclist’s back pocket. Financieres are very forgiving and versatile cakes which can be made in a variety of small shapes and flavour combinations. Typically they’re made with ground blanched almonds which have little flavour so I like to play around with them and one of my favourite combinations uses coconut and coconut sugar which I think gives them a more unctuous and interesting flavour.
Ingredients (makes 72 petit four sized cakes)
- 180g (3 cups) desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
- 150g (1 cup) caster sugar
- 75g (¾ cup) coconut sugar
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 225g (8oz) egg whites (7-8 egg whites)
- 90g (3oz) butter ‘beurre noisette’
- 110g (4oz) clarified butter
- 120g (1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
1. Prepare the beurre noisette (‘hazelnut’ butter, so called for the scent of hazelnuts the browned butter produces), cut the butter into pieces, melt it in a small saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat. Once the butter boils, keep a close eye on it — you want it to turn a golden brown. The deeper the colour, the better the flavour, but be careful not to let the butter burn and go black — something that can happen very quickly.
2. Melt the rest of the butter in another saucepan over a low heat, remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool and for the milk solids to settle.
3. In a large mixing bowl combine the coconut, sugars and salt and fold in the egg whites.
4. Add all the butters (but not the solids) in three steps, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
5. Sift the flour onto a piece of greaseproof (parchment) paper and add in three stages folding gently each time to incorporate.
6. Cover the batter with cling film (plastic wrap) and chill for several hours or overnight in the fridge. The batter will firm up considerably.
7. Take the batter out of the fridge. Pre-heat oven to 190ºC/170ºC fan/gas mark 5 (375ºF/325ºF fan).
8. Generously butter – financiere batter is notoriously sticky – and then sugar your preferred baking moulds – the smaller the better. I use mini muffin and mini financiere tins.
9. Fill mould three-quarters full – I use a very small ice cream scoop so that they’re all the same size – place tins on baking sheet, put in centre of oven and bake for about 15 minutes. The cakes should be a dark golden brown, springy to the touch and easy to pull away from the sides of the pan.
10. Unmould the cakes as soon as you remove the tins from the oven. If necessary, run the handle of a teaspoon or a blunt knife around the edges of the cakes to help ease them out. Transfer the financieres to a wire rack and allow them to cool to room temperature.
11. The cakes are best eaten they day they’re made but they’ll keep in the cake tin for 1-2 days, providing you can resist temptation, or sit in the freezer for a month.
Sheree’s Handy Hints
1. All ingredients should be at room temperature.
2. When I’m baking I always use a timer as it’s so easy to lose track of time. Once you’ve put the financieres in the oven, put the timer on for five minutes less than they should take to cook and then check regularly.
3. With financieres it’s all about the ratio of crisp exterior to soft chewy interior which is why they’re so often served as petit fours.
4. If you bake yours in silicone moulds, still generously butter the form as it’ll create the much-desired crispy outer crust.
5. Once you’re conversant with the recipe, experiment. I often use ground pistachios instead of coconut and add some matcha tea powder to intensify that gorgeous green colour.
6. If you make larger ones you can pop some fruit in the centre, raspberries with pistachios, pineapple with coconut, apricots or peaches with almonds – there’s no end to the possibilities.
7. You can even make savoury ones but leave out the sugar!
8. The batter will keep for a week or so in the fridge so there’s no need to bake them all at once.