Monday, June 10, 2013

Almond Financiers with Honey-Mint Poached Pears

Financiers have always reminded me of madeleines. They have that golden brown color and they look extremely spongy and moist. Often, financiers are mistaken for pastries when in fact, they are small French cakes. Typically, they are made with almond flour or powder. One key trait of financiers is that they include browned butter, which is extremely simple to make.

Financiers have a similar texture to sponge cakes. I would say that they are slightly denser and have a nice nutty flavor because of the almond flour. I also added slivered almonds which enhanced the almond flavor and added some texture to the cake. What ever you choose to add to the financiers, they always have the same five ingredients: almond flour, powdered sugar, flour, egg whites, and [browned] butter.

After thinking about it, I realized that just making financiers alone would be too boring. So I decided that I would add a little flare to them. What I did was poach some pears in honey, water and mint. The honey made the pears even sweeter and even caramelized them a bit. I think it was the perfect touch the the delicate financiers.

I adapted Pastry Pal, Irina's recipe. The recipe for the financiers is word for word, but the pears are different. Instead of rosemary, I used mint and instead of wine I simply used water. I know the wine would have added more flavor, but I didn't have any wine on hand so I had to make do. I topped the finished product with a fresh mint leaf and brushed the entire surface with syrup, which gave it a beautiful shimmer.

The final result was a beautiful honey mint poached pear almond financier. The top of the cake had a light crust and the inside was chewy but moist. It wasn't overwhelmingly sweet and the pear was perfectly tender. I would really recommend making this if you're in the mood for a delicate treat.

Honey Mint Poached Pear Almond Financier
makes approx 8-10 (4" diam., 1 1/4" high) cakes 

adapted from Irina 
1 stick (4 oz, or 112 g) unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups (200 g) powdered sugar
1/3 cup (42 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (42 g) almond flour
4 large (about 1/2 cup, or  125 ml) egg whites

1/2 cup slivered almonds  

Preheat the oven to 375°F

In a large bowl, stir up the powdered sugar, flour and almond flour. Pour in the egg whites and whisk the mixture until smooth. Set the mixture aside. 

In a saucepan, melt the butter over high heat and watch it melt. Keep your eye on it as you do not want it to burn. The color you are aiming for it a chestnut brown. Once you smell a nice and nutty aroma, the butter is done. It will take about 5-7 minutes. Make sure the butter does not start smoking, that's when you know it is burnt. 

Slowly incorporate the browned butter into the flour and egg white mixture. There will be some blackish milk solids at the bottom of the saucepan. Make sure not to pour that into the batter. It will make it taste bitter. Just leave that in the pan. 

Now it's time to bake the financiers. I used mini tart pans from Williams-Sonoma, but you don't have to. You can use cupcake tins or mini brioche pans. Spray the pans with cooking spray or coat them with butter. Fill the pans until halfway full. Sprinkle the slivered almonds on top. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool as we prepare the pears. 

Honey-mint poached pears
1 tablespoon canola oil 
4 ripe bartlett pears, peeled
1/2 cup (125 ml) honey

2-3 sprigs of fresh mint
1/4 cup water 


Cut the pears along the four sides. Try to get most of the fruit off, cutting close to the core.

Heat a saute pan over high heat and pour in the oil once the pan is heated. Toss in the pears and allow them to sit for 30 seconds before stirring. Cook the pears for about 5 minutes. If desired, move them around to get each both sides seared. 

Once the pears have cooked for a while, add in the honey and mint. Stir the ingredients together and allow the pears to release their juices while taking in the honey and mint as well. Let them cook in the honey for about 5-7 minutes. If the edges of the pan seem to be too caramelized and start to look burnt, add some water. After about 5-7 minutes, poke the pears to test their tenderness. If they are still hard and the liquid is evaporating too quickly, add more water and honey and turn the heat to medium. Once the pears are tender (test by poking a toothpick or fork into the center), pour them into a sheet tray and let cool. Reserve any left over syrup.

Take the cooled financiers out of their pans and place them onto small doilies or onto a small plate. Cut the pears into thin strips. Place the sliced pears, in their original shape, onto a financier. Gently top each pear with a fresh mint leaf and brush the entire surface of the dessert with the left over syrup from the pears. Done. Now it's time to enjoy them. 

I do wish I had the chance to try one of these, but they were gone before I could even have a bite. The description of the cakes come from my family, but I trust them enough to say they are accurate descriptions. Either way, they look delicious, so they must taste delicious as well! 

As always, Happy baking!!