Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stay sweet.

According to the Webster dictionary, a financier is someone who deals with money and investments on a large scale.  In French pastry terms, financiers are spongy tea cakes often made with almond flour.  Legend has it that financiers (the pastry) got their name because busy workers in the financial district wanted an afternoon snack they could easily eat on the go without a mess.  I've also heard that the name came from the molds they were originally made in, which resembled miniature bars of gold.  I sort of prefer the first story--it's a little funny to picture businessmen eating dainty little cakes for a snack.

I had hazelnut financiers when I was in Paris last year; they were brought out as the finishing touch to a wonderful (and satisfying) lunch.  But I was too stuffed to eat them, and my mom wrapped a few up and tucked them in her bag so we could eat them later while sight seeing.  Perhaps the snack story had some truth to it after all.

Regardless of how they got their name, these pastries seem to keep on giving.  I first made these for Thanksgiving last year, and since then, I've brought them to a few other dinners, because they presented well, sounded fancy, and were delicious.  I didn't have the mold traditionally used, but I baked them in a mini-cupcake tin and they looked cute anyway.  The recipe is from David Lebovitz's The Sweet Life in Paris (another successful recipe from the book!), but this last time making them, I gave it a little bit of a twist.  Chocolate and almond are perfect complements, and chocolate and orange is one of my favorite flavor combinations.  I decided to try adding the orange flavor to the mix, and I think I like them better this way.  To be a little festive, I put them in Valentine's Day cupcake boxes I found at Michael's.

Chocolate Orange Financiers
Makes approximately 18 mini cupcake financiers
Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz  

Preheat the oven to 425F degrees.  Lightly butter the mini cupcake tin.

1.  Melt 6 T. of unsalted butter and set aside to reach room temperature.

2.  In a bowl, mix together with a wire whisk by hand:
- 3/4 cup almond meal
- 3 T. unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 T. unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/8 t. salt
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar

3.  Add the following to the mixture from #2, and mix until combined:
- 3 egg whites
- 1/4 t. almond extract
- 1/4 t. orange extract

4.  Stir melted butter into the batter.

5.  Evenly distribute the batter into the mini cupcake tin, filling each about 3/4 full.

6.  Bake for approximately 11 minutes, until they are firm to the touch.  Remove from the oven and allow them to cool.