Friday, March 20, 2009

French Almond Financier Cake

With Lemon Infused Créme Pâtissiére & Fresh Berries

So if I haven't mentioned it I love Chris. He is such an amazing man; he touches my soul and inspires me to be the best version of me possible. Needless to say I had to make him an incredible birthday cake. I asked him if he wanted something deeply chocolaty and rich with a warm gooey center think chocolate soufflé or something bright and fresh with spring fruit. Much to my surprise he went for the fruit option. Of course I had to pull out all the stops; I hit the cookbooks and the internet until I remembered I had a really basic recipe for these beautiful, petite, golden, French almond finger cakes that I had never used and well inspiration hit and before I knew it I was elbow deep in french pastry pefection.

The original recipe was for 12 small finger cakes which were not going to fly for a birthday cake, so I doubled it. (I also do not own the special molds to make these in the traditional shape, I think you could probably use Madeline molds or any other small cake pans.) I know there are some of you out there shaking your head that I would make a new recipe along with changes the first time for something as important as a birthday.

Perfect example of haw amazing Chris is; he reassured me that even if it didn't turn out perfect there was enough butter in it no matter what, it would taste amazing. He is always my champion supporting me when I am playing mad chef in the kitchen making an incredible mess. Have I mentioned I love him yet?

I baked the cake in a large shallow Maryann cake pan; it is a bit like a tart pan only with a depression in the center so when you unmold the cake it is perfect for filling with cream or frosting. I hoped this would be a good choice because the original recipe only cooked the little cakes for 12 min and I feared a deeper larger pan might cause problems, so I went big but shallow. It worked marvelously; it turned out a perfect base cake, golden and delicious, with the most amazing texture, light but still substantial and a little spongy.

I filled the depression with this amazing lemon infused pastry crème. I just tweaked a basic recipe to include the lemon because I love a little lemon with my fresh berries, it just sets them off. You could also throw some zest into the cake to give you the same effect. I decorated the top with fresh raspberries and strawberries, and a little sifted confectioners sugar to top it all off.

1 c. ground almonds
1 ½ c. confectioner's sugar, sifted
6 tbsp all-purpose flour, plus a little for dusting the pan
12 tbsp unsalted butter, plus a little for the pan
6 large egg whites * reserve the yolks for pastry crème
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Butter and flour your choice of pan.
2. Mix the almonds, sugar, and salt together. Heat the butter over low heat, just until melted. Whisk the egg whites until they are frothy but barely thickened. Add the butter, egg whites, and vanilla extract to the dry ingredients and fold together.
3. Divide the batter among the molds, filling halfway. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until they spring back when pressed lightly. Cool briefly, remove from the molds onto a wire rack, and cool completely.

Makes 24 small cakes or one full size cake
Special Equipment:12 financier or barquette molds, or a 14 inch shallow Maryann pan
You can freeze the finished cake for up to 3 months

Lemon Infused Créme Pâtissiére
This sweet pastry cream is the perfect rich and creamy filling for any type of desert but is really scrumptious on fruit tarts or in cream puffs.
*You could really do this with orange as well, with a little orange liquor to give it an extra pop.

1¼ c. whole milk * I actually used vanilla soy milk
¾ c. sugar * I use light brown because it gives a little more depth and a beautiful color
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp cornstarch *more if you want a thicker crème
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp pure vanilla extract *or use the inside of one vanilla bean
4 large egg yolks
Zest of one large lemon

1. Bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. If using a vanilla bean scrape into the milk now.
2. Whisk the yolks and sugar together in a bowl. Whisk in the flour and cornstarch. Gradually whisk in the hot milk.
3. Return the mixture to the saucepan, add the lemon zest. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until it comes to a full boil and is smooth.
* I like the little pieces of zest in the crème but if you want perfectly smooth crème add the zest in the fist step and then strain it out after 5 min. before adding it to the other ingredients.
4. Let cool slightly, add lemon juice and if using vanilla extract add it now and give it a good whisk. If not using immediately, cover with a piece of buttered wax paper pressed directly onto the surface of the pastry cream.

Makes about 1 ½ c.

The crème can be refrigerated, with wax paper pressed on its surface, for up to 2 days.

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