July 6, 2004
What is it with mini things that makes them so damn irresistible?
I have always wanted to make mignardises, those sweet little bites that they serve with coffee in upscale restaurants. The name alone is enough to make you want them : "mignardise" comes from "mignard", an old-fashioned word which, as a noun, means a small child, and as an adjective means delicate, graceful and pretty. Mignardise-mignardise-mignardise -- you try saying it, see how addictive it is.
And mignardises were exactly what I had in mind when I bought my new Flexipan molds, the one for little tartlets and the one for hemispherical petits fours. I was delighted to get them just in time for Sunday, as we had invited six of our friends over for the goûter. I like the idea of serving mini-things on this sort of occasion, because it is somehow less imposing on your guests' appetite, you avoid force-feeding them a slice of cake when maybe they've eaten gargantuesquely all week-end, and all they dream about is a cup of tea and a celery stick.
I decided to make financiers, those little almond cakes traditionally baked in shallow rectangular molds. You may, like me, wonder about the origin of the name, and I will share the two stories I've been told : some say it's because they include almond powder and butter, pricy ingredients that only bankers could afford ; others say it is because in the traditional shape they look like gold ingots, and are hence favored by rich people. Whatever the reason, they are a delicious treat, buttery and nutty, slightly crisp on the top and edges, while sweetly soft and moist inside.
As it turned out, the appetite of my guests really wasn't a problem, and we all enjoyed my bébé financiers, which I had made in three different versions : some were left plain, others were decorated with a pistachio, and the rest was flavored with chocolate (and I have also had excellent results in the past decorating them with raspberries). To these I added a batch of mini blueberry muffins made with the mix Alicia had sent me from Maryland, also baked in my petit-four tray.
And some organic cherries, too, to cancel out the calories.
- 125 g sugar
- 125 g almond powder (a.k.a. ground almonds or almond meal)
- 4 egg whites, or 2 eggs
- 70 g butter (+ 20 g for the molds if not using nonstick)
- 20 g flour
- 3 Tbsp cocoa powder + 3 Tbsp strong coffee
- and/or pistachios
- and/or chocolate chips
- or raspberries
(Makes 12 regular size financiers, or 36 mignardises.)
Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F).
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over gentle heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes, until lightly browned and nutty-smelling. Set aside to cool slightly. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sugar and almond powder. Add in the eggs and mix well with a fork. Add in the melted butter, mix again, then add in the flour, stirring while you pour.
At this point, you can stir in the cocoa powder and coffee if you want to make chocolate financiers. Alternately, you can divide the batter and add cocoa powder and coffee to one part only, in proportion.
Butter the molds if they're not nonstick or otherwise blessed with magical powers, then pour the batter in each individual mold, filling it up just to the rim. If you like, you can add raspberries (a line of three for the regular-sized ones, like buttons on a clown outfit, or just one on top of mini ones), pushing them down in the batter slightly, or pistachios, or chocolate chips (these you shouldn't push down).
Bake for ten to eighteen minutes, depending on the size and shape of your molds. The financiers should puff up a bit, get golden and slightly crusty on the edges, but they will still feel soft to the touch. Let stand for a few minutes, before turning them out on a rack to cool completely. The bottoms have a tendency to be a bit sticky when still warm, so you may want to put them upside down on the rack, or put them on a sheet of parchment paper.
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