Financiers with Finesse (And a Curd with Some Zest)

February 23rd, 2011

Hazelnut Financiers with Lemon Curd

So one of things you learn when you work in a commercial kitchen and you make the same recipe over and over, is the importance of consistency. From whether you sifted your ingredients, to how quickly (or slowly) you combine everything, to the ambient temperature of the kitchen when you put a batter together, can all all have incremental yet cumulatively critical effects on the final result.

Take this financier. On the surface, a fairly straightforward tea cake made of browned butter, egg whites, almond meal, and confectioner’s sugar, yet in making several batches I discovered how a colder-than-usual winter day or overexuberant mixing can lead to less than perfect financiers.

The main goal of making financier batter is to fully incorporate the browned butter with the rest of the ingredients. A couple of things that might prevent this from happening: if the ingredients are too cold, then ingredients won’t incorporate as fully (think of trying to cream cold butter and sugar); or adding butter too quickly to the batter so that again, it combine fully and instead becomes a mixture of melted butter floating on top of clumps of dry ingredients.

Before we arrived at these insights, we found financiers that, when baked off, that would look and feel a little too greasy in our hands. Too much unincorporated butter. Since these weren’t acceptable to sell, we embarked on a investigation until we found the flaws in the method that needed finessing, and tweaked the recipe until it delivered what we wanted.

Hazelnut Financiers with Lemon Curd

This experience is a fine illustration of how baking is a living process. Even “proven” recipes can sometimes turn out wonky, and then it’s a matter of close observation and analysis until you figure out the reason. Of course for experienced pastry chefs it’s much easier to determine what went wrong, but it’s never too soon to sharpen your own deductive skills. I had never made financiers with butter and egg whites warmed to a specific temperature before. And I don’t think it’s necessary to pull out the thermometer every time you bake something. But now, if make financiers again, I’ll know that I want my ingredients warm, not cold or hot. And if they come out dry or oily, I’ll have an idea of what to troubleshoot instead of throwing up my hands in frustration.

These financiers, made at home, are based on the recipe from my cookie cookbook, with a bit of vanilla added and topped with a hazelnut streusel for some crunchy contrast. They came out pretty well, if I do say so myself.

Yuzu Curd

The home financier-making also prompted me to use up some yuzu juice gifted to me. Although yuzu is slowly setting down roots in the US, showing up in farmers’ markets and backyard gardens, it’s still a bit of an exotic find. Japanese or Asian markets will usually carry bottled yuzu juice, but often the preservatives added give it salty flavor – ok if you’re making a ponzu sauce, not so great if you’re trying to bake a cake, or some buttercream.

I recently met with Tomoko Sato, the founder and president of Yuzu Passion, dedicated to the production and distribution of yuzu. All the yuzu products in their line are made with yuzu from a small village on the island of Kito, Japan. Tomoko established a relationship with this yuzu farm, which grows and processes its yuzu by traditional methods. The resulting yuzu juice has a crystalline, mouth-puckery tartness. It’s more astringent (think grapefruit) than lemon, although I think yuzu has by far the lovelier fragrance. Tomoko was nice enough to give me a bottle of Yuzu Passion’s yuzu juice to try out.

You can use yuzu like any other citrus; if you’re a fan of those Japanese super lemon candies, yuzu would be right up your alley. From a sweet perspective, yuzu is a great foil for the richness of chocolate, butter, and cream. Hence my rendition of Pierre Herme’s lemon cream with yuzu juice, which makes a great counterpoint to the nutty, buttery financiers.

I folded in some whipped cream to make it more of a mousseline so it I could pipe it out for a prettier presentation, but if you want more yuzu intensity feel free to leave it out.

Hazelnut Financiers with Lemon Curd

Come back tomorrow to Dessert First, when I’ll have an announcement about this year’s Food Blogger Bake Sale!

Vanilla Financiers with Hazelnut Streusel

makes about 20 financiers

Financiers

  • 4 ounces (113 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups (150 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup (48 g) almond meal or ground blanched almonds
  • 1/3 cup (42 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg whites, 40 degrees C (104 degrees F)
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Hazelnut Streusel

  • 1/3 cup (42 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (24 g) toasted ground hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (55 g) dark brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons (71 g) unsalted butter, chilled

Yuzu Cream

  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (122 g) yuzu juice (you can substitute Meyer lemons)
  • 5 tablespoons (71 g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-in pieces
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) heavy whipping cream, optional
  • For the financiers: Cut butter into pieces and place in a skillet or saucepan. Melt over medium heat on stove, swirling occasionally, until it starts to turn brown and smells nutty. Do not let the butter get too dark or it will burn. Strain butter into a clean bowl.
  • Sift sugar, ground almonds, flour, and salt together in a medium bowl.
  • Add half of egg whites and whisk to combine. Add in rest of egg whites and whisk until fully incorporated.
  • Check butter is at 60 degrees F (140 degrees F). Add butter slowly in four additions, whisking to combine before adding the next addition. It should be a thick, smooth batter.
  • Add vanilla and whisk to combine.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate batter overnight.
  • For the streusel: Combine the flour, hazelnuts, sugars, and salt together in bowl of food processor.
  • Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the flour mixture. Process until mixture resembles small peas. Do not let it combine fully into one ball of dough.
  • Refrigerate streusel until ready to use.
  • When you are ready to bake: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a mini muffin tin or financier tins with cooking spray.
  • Divide the batter among the prepared tins, filling almost to the top. Sprinkle tops of financiers with streusel.
  • Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating tins halfway through. The financiers should be golden brown and just firm to the touch. Let cool on wire rack for a few minutes before unmolding.
  • For the yuzu cream: Create a water bath by placing a saucepan of water over heat to simmer and placing a metal bowl unto the pan so its bottom does not touch the water. Whisk the sugar, eggs and yuzu juice together.
  • Cook the mixture over the simmering water, whisking constantly, until the cream reaches 180 degrees and thickens. Keep whisking while the mixture is heating up to prevent the eggs from cooking.
  • Once the cream is thickened - you should be able to make tracks in the mixture with your whisk - take the cream off the heat and strain it into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Let the cream rest for a bit until it cools to about 140 degrees.
  • Add in the butter pieces a few at the time and combine on high speed. Once all of the butter has been added, let the mixture combine for a few minutes longer to ensure the mixture is perfectly smooth.
  • Once the cream is finished pour it into a container and let it chill in the refrigerator for about half an hour before using.
  • To make a mousseline, whip the whipping cream in a stand mixer to soft peaks. Gently fold into the yuzu cream.
  • Either spread the yuzu cream over the financiers, or fill a piping tip fitted with a 1/2" star tip and pipe over the financiers.

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