Jun 15, 2009

Financiers au Chocolat

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."


Goody said...

So next time, you get your book club to read Theodore Dreiser, and you've got the perfect cake.

I've wanted to get my hands on nibs, but the only place that has them around here is Whole Foods, and I. Just. Can't.

They look beautiful-the special little pan is lovely.

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Absolutely gorgeous!!!

Marie said...

Oh, I love the idea of picking a book to fit the cake!
Maybe you could someone else to make the fearsome trek into WF to pick up the nibs for you? They're quite good.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I don't stir constantly when clarifying butter--I don't think it is necessary--maybe just once in a while stir back the white froth on top to see how the it is progressing. I usually do 3-4 sticks at a time and keep it in a covered 2 cup container in the fridge. It is amazing how many uses you can find for it once you have it. Yes--it makes a great pasta sauce. Try throwing in a few fresh sages leaves--sage brown butter--they crisp up and make a delicious easy sauce.

evil cake lady said...

Ooo! I bought cacao nibs in Mexico and haven't known what to do with them--now I know! I like those chocolate desserts that sneak up on you in deliciousness and chocolate flavor. These sound perfect. (Funny jab at the bankers! LOL)

Melinda said...

This recipe took you out of your comfort zone a wee bit! Rose's recipes are a bit like that though.
You look at it and think...."oh, that sounds way too tricky!" But then you just follow what she says and low and behold you have done it!
That's why I love her.
Your little financiers look so sweet and good.
I am sure because they are tiny you could have 3 of them without breaking your 1 only rule!
I have never tried cocoa nibs, knowingly. I wonder where I am going to find them here? I will keep my eagle eye out for them now.
I was going to say, these look dainty perfect for a tea party!

doughadear said...

As I read your account of making these little morsels I thought that you could not make these on the fly with all the step required.
However they do look awfully good and I agree with Melinda that they would make a wonderful addition to a tea party tray.

Marie said...

I think you're right about the stirring. The recipe for the financiers says to stir constantly, but in the general beurre noisette section at the end of the book, it says to stir occasionally. Not stirring constantly would definitely be the easier choice.

Yes, this is an excellent use for cacao nibs. You could do the same caramelizing step and sprinkle them on top of plain old brownies, or on top of a chocolate mousse, or...well, lots of other things. You can also just snack on them.

I still only ate one--because now I've talked about my one-only rule so often that I feel that I can't go back on it. You are so right about the recipe's being out of my comfort zone. That's why I was so indignant about it being labelled quick and easy, but when I looked back on it, the steps weren't really hard--just new.
I know that if I ever get around to making Danish pastry, it will be the same thing--just follow the directions one step at a time and you'll be fine.

I still can't make up my mind whether they're better as part of a sweets tray or on their own. They're so tiny that you couldn't really serve just one as a dessert, but I'm afraid that their specialness might be loss if they were one of several items on a tray.

Julie said...

These look wonderful, financiers are one of my favorite things! And congratulations on a successful venture out of your comfort zone, Rose is great for that.

I think the buerre noisette can be a lot faster and easier when you've done it a few times- definitely something you could do while toasting almonds. Higher heat cuts down on the time.

Marie said...

I'm impressed that you've even heard of them, much less that you've made them.

hector said...

i have been offered the nibs a few times, do you think it can work in lieu of chocolate chips on cakes, like Rose's Grand Marnier cake?

Marie said...

No, I think they'd be too bitter as is--they're pure cocoa bean with no sugar, but they might work if you do the caramelizing.

jini said...

they really look fantastically good. nuts, butter, chocolate - what else would be better? i'm impressed with your strength in keeping to the "just one" vow......i am sure i would be telling myself they were so tiny that three would equal one in this case! :)

Maria said...

Another wonderful creation!

I have some cocoa nibs, but am always looking for new uses. Now that you've got them, I've a couple suggestions for you. If you brew your own coffee, throw some in with the grounds (or grind them with the beans). Another idea is from the book Bittersweet; she suggests steeping the nibs in heavy cream, then straining them out and making whipped cream. Sounds so good but I've not tried it yet.

I do have a question for you--does Rose have a coconut cake recipe in this book? I was shocked at being unable to find one in The Cake Bible.

Marie said...

Well, you're skinnier than I am, so you could have two or three.

I love the idea of the cacao nib/coffee combination. I'm going to try it tomorrow--thanks! There are at least two coconut cake recipes in the new book, and I've been thinking about doing one and posting the recipe for it sometime in July, so keep an eye out for that.

hector said...

i meant to use the cocoa nibs caramelized in lieu of chocolate chips. i must must try =)

Marie said...

After I said I didn't think they'd work, I realized that you probably meant the caramelized version. I think that would be a very elegant variation.

BlindGirl said...

You just make me so anxious.. I'm at millions km from you and I would like to try it, but I do not know the recipe

(I know "financiers with almonds- the very simple part only with the almonds, but the butter is only melted to the microwave and the almonds are used without roasting, only thing you really do beside mixing everything is the almond's powder if you did not buy they like that already)... you told us the difficult parts step by step but you would not reveal the proportions? exact quantities? or source of the initial recipe? Please, I want to taste it :) Please have mercy :)