So What Is a Financier?
A financier is an almond and brown butter pastry baked in a small mold. These light and moist pastries have a crisp eggshell-like exterior and traditionally were baked in small rectangular molds that resemble gold bars. They became a favorite of bankers in the Paris financial district.
While popularized in nineteenth century France, these delectable little pastries date back to the Middle Ages. They were originally made by nuns of the Order of the Visitation and were called a visitandine.
Turning Flour Into Gold
When you bite into one of these delights, the combination of brown butter and almond flour explodes with an instant burst of caramelized deliciousness. Financiers are deceptively simple to make, but unlike the classic Madeleine, they don’t disappoint. Marcel Proust has A LOT to answer for!
I have looked at numerous recipes for the financiers and they are all pretty similar. By some wonderful alchemy, these simple ingredients bake into pure pastry gold. The following recipe comes from the Joy of Baking and makes 12 little pastries. Since the financiers are best warm from the oven, this number was perfect for me.
Don’t worry if you don’t have rectangular or boat-shaped molds. These work out fine using small muffin cups.
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter plus 2 Tablespoons melted for brushing the tins
1/4 cup (30 grams) all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/2 cup (55 grams) ground almonds (can use almond meal/flour)
3/4 cup (90 grams) confectioners (powdered or confectioner’s) sugar sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large (90 grams) egg whites lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Fresh berries (optional)
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) with oven rack in the center. Place 12 shallow, rectangular or boat-shaped tartlet molds (or mini-muffin cups) on a baking pan. Brush each tin with melted butter.
Place the 1/2 cup of butter in a small, light-colored saucepan over medium heat. [You need to be able to see the color of the butter change so please don’t use a dark pan.] Melt the butter and allow it to come to a boil, swirling the pan occasionally. As it boils, you will notice foam coming to the surface. Continue to cook the butter until it starts to look clear and the milk solids have dropped to the bottom of the pan. The butter will turn a golden brown. [This happens all of a sudden so do not walk away!]
Immediately remove the butter from the heat and pour it through a fine strainer lined with cheesecloth.
Allow the now clarified brown butter to cool to room temperature. You will need 1/3 cup of brown butter for the recipe. I didn’t have any left over, but if you do you can use this to brush the tins.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, ground almonds, confectioner’s sugar and salt. Be sure to break up any lumps from the ground almonds.
Make a well in the center and fold in the lightly beaten egg whites, vanilla and the brown butter.
Fill each mold almost to the rim. Bake the pastries for 5 minutes or until the batter is set around the edges but still soft in the center. [I originally baked it for 4 minutes so my berries sunk a bit more than was perfect.]
Remove the pan from the oven and place raspberries or blueberries on top, if using, which I recommend. Return the pan to the oven and continue baking until the financiers are golden brown and springy to the touch. Ovens vary but mine took an additional 7 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack. Once cool enough to easily handle, the financiers should easily pop out of the tins. These are best served warm, but they can be stored for a few days, covered, at room temperature.