These are translated as "chocolate ingots." But literally, they are chocolate bankers. If we were naming something for bankers now, it wouldn't be rich, sweet, delightful little cakes. Or if we did name them for bankers, we'd probably call them "chocolate parasites." Apologies to any bankers out there; I'm sure it's not your fault we stood at the precipice of economic disaster.
I learned some new techniques with this recipe--how to make beurre noisette, which is a very brown butter that means, I'm pretty sure, hazelnut butter. Named for the color? The flavor? I'm not sure. It takes a long time--I mean a LONG time--but eventually it does what it's supposed to do. I also learned how to make caramelized cacao nibs. (In the process, I learned that you can't walk into any 7-11 store and find cacao nibs). I also used my silicone financier pan for the very first time.
And I used my new pastry bag to get the financier batter into the financier molds.
I've always had my doubts about silicone bakeware. It's so flimsy and plastic-y looking, like it will melt in the oven for sure. But everyone is using them now, and I had to think that if they melted in ovens, I'd have heard about it.
I was working sporadically on these financiers most of the day. At one point, Jim said, "I guess this isn't one of the 'quick and easy' recipes, is it?" I said, "I guess not. Ha, ha." Then I looked at the list. Dear readers, I will leave it to you to decide whether this fits your definition of quick and easy. I can tell you that it makes me think that the "long and hard" recipes are going to be a slog.
The first step was roasting the almonds. Well, that's no big deal. The second step is making the brown butter, or, more fancily, beurre noisette. This is one of those miracle recipes. You follow the directions--stir constantly over low heat--and nothing seems to be happening.
Then, suddenly, after about 20 minutes of stirring, the milk solids on the bottom of the pan, do, indeed, turn a dark brown, and the remaining brown butter is strained out, leaving the solids behind.
The brown butter itself tastes so delicious that it almost seems a shame to cover it up with the rest of the ingredients, like flour and cocoa, when it would be so good as a simple sauce. Rose suggests making a big batch of it because it keeps for months in the refrigerator and years in the freezer, but I didn't listen.
The next step is making caramelized cacao nibs, which requires, naturally, cacao nibs. I tried my friendly neighborhood Kowalski's, where the very helpful man looked extremely doubtful when I asked him where the cacao nibs might be. I finally found them at Kitchen Window, which has both packaged Schaarfen-Berger and a less expensive French nib in bulk. Right out of the package, the cacao nibs taste pretty bitter, but caramelizing them enhances the chocolate flavor while decreasing the bitterness. This step was actually pretty easy, although anything that's caramelized always strikes fear into my heart because things can go wrong so quickly and dramatically.
Nothing went wrong, and I was left with far more caramelized cacao nibs than I needed for this recipe, but I expect I will find a use for them. Perhaps I will just eat them out of hand.
Making the batter is simple--just a matter of mixing egg whites and sugar, and then adding a flour/almond/cornstarch mix which you've already pulverized in the blender, and then slowly adding the beurre noisette. Filling the financier pan called for the debut performance of my new pastry bag/tube.
Using the tube makes it much easier to fill the pan, but it's time-consuming to fill the tube, so it kind of evens out. I'll have to admit I really liked the way the little indentations filled so neatly and evenly.
My financier pan must be tinier than the standard, however, because, although the recipe is supposed to make only 15 financiers, I filled up my 20-cup pan, then over-filled them, and still had enough batter left to fill a Pyrex custard cup to make a large financier-muffin. I would have thought that a financier mold would be a standard size, but I guess I would be wrong.
I almost forgot the last step--to sprinkle the caramelized cacao nibs on top. These are listed as optional, but they really are not. Almost everyone who tasted these commented about the delicious, crunchy topping. It's really what makes these little bites of chocolate stand out.
These are not knock-your-socks-off chocolatey, like the Chocolate Oblivion cake, for example. The strongest chocolate flavor comes from the cacao nibs rather than the cocoa in the batter. Their texture is light and almost airy, not dense, as you might expect. It has subtle layers of flavor--I first tasted chocolate, then nuts, then butter. If you like chocolate and almonds, as reader ButterYum does, these may be for you.
Jim didn't rave about them at first. He liked them, but he thought they weren't chocolatey enough and not big enough. But then he ate a second one, as well as the big muffin-shaped one; after his third, he seemed more enthusiastic.
As for the "quick and easy" listing, I guess I could go for the "easy" part. Nothing was really difficult--it was just new. Now that I've made beurre noisette once, it wouldn't intimidate me to make it a second time. And the caramelized cacao nibs were much easier than making actual caramel. But I don't think I can really endorse the "quick" label--unless you already have beurre noisette and caramelized cacao nibs in your freezer. I personally don't know of a single person who considers either of these items a staple, but, if you do, you could whip them up in no time. And that could make you a very popular person indeed.
Sara: "Surprisingly light tasting for having so much butter in them--a good summery chocolate dessert. And I love the cacao nibs."
Karen: "Wonderfully chocolatey--possibly the answer to a chocolate-lover's craving for just a bit of chocolate."
Laurel: "Perfectly executed little loaves and wonderfully crunchy topping. But the cake's taste was flat--maybe it needed a little more salt?"
Susan: "Just the right size for snacking--love the cacao nibs! Perfect for tea."