Monday, March 11, 2013

Lemon and Chai Spice Financiers

Financiers.  The term literally translates to "bankers".  In this day and age the word "banker" may leave a bitter taste in your mouth, but these divine little cakes will not.

The Parisian bakery that first made these delicate little cakes was located in the financial district of Paris, and they are traditionally baked in a small rectangular loaf giving them the appearance of bars of gold (or so the story goes).  They have been a staple of the French patisserie ever since.

Financiers are delicate almond cakes made with brown butter (beurre noisette) and almond flour.  They are not too sweet and are a brilliant companion to any and all ice creams and sorbets.  Here I have added lemon zest and chai spices to add to their incredible fragrance.  They are very light, chewy on the interior and crunchy on the outside.  Best of all the batter can (and should) be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated until right before serving.  The financiers should be served warm from the oven and lightly dusted with powdered sugar.

I served these cakes as part of a Pacific-Northwest-French-Asian fusion menu and accompanied them with my raspberry-merlot sorbet. YUM.

Lemon and Chai Spice Financiers
makes 2 dozen small cakes

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 oz.)
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup pastry flour (I like White Lilly all purpose flour)
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
grated zest of two lemons
5 egg whites

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Continue to cook the butter until it foams and the milk solids precipitate to the bottom of the pan and the butter is lightly browned.  Immediately remove from heat and strain the brown butter through cheesecloth into a small bowl.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

In a food processor combine powdered sugar, flour, almonds, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice, pepper, salt, baking powder, and lemon zest.  Process until almonds are very finely ground.

In a large clean bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Fold in the dry ingredients 1/3 at a time, being careful not to deflate the batter.  Add half of the brown butter and fold, then fold in the remaining butter, carefully folding until batter is well combined, but not deflated.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use (this can be made one day ahead of time).

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Butter and flour a mini muffin pan.  evenly distribute the chilled batter between cups.  Bake 5-10 minutes until cakes are puffed and just set.  Let cool 2 minutes before removing from pan.

Serve warm, dusted with powdered sugar and Raspberry-Merlot Sorbet.

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