I was searching for a way to use up some leftover egg whites and came across these delicate little almond cakes by Martha Stewart. According to Cecile Delarue in her “The Everything Easy French Cookbook,” they were first made by Visitandine nuns in the Middle Ages from which they got their names. Later, in the nineteenth century, there was a popular revival that resulted in them being called financiers, maybe due to the fact that the bakery where they were sold was in the financial district of Paris. Delarue also surmises that the name came from their resemblance to little gold bars.
Although traditionally baked in a bar-shaped mold, you can also use muffins tins, which is what I used. Cast iron corn bread molds work and also give the gold bar look. Butter, sugar and almonds provide most of the flavor with a light spongy texture coming from beaten egg whites. I had doubts about a cake recipe with so many egg whites and so little flour. However, it turned out that the little bit of wheat flour mixed with the small amount of almond flour was more than enough to provide substance. You don’t have to add the orange glaze. The recipe makes 3 cups of batter, enough for about 12 bars or a dozen or more “muffins,” depending on the size.
In case you don’t have cake flour or confectioners’ sugar, regular flour and sugar can be refined in a blender or food processor. I have also added a recipe for making almond flour that uses whole almonds. I conveniently keep a bag in my freezer.
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons almond flour – or see almond flour recipe below
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour – not self-rising
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
8 large egg whites, room temperature
Vegetable oil or cooking spray, for pan
Orange glaze, below
To make your own almond flour, take a cup or so of raw almonds and boil in water for about 15 minutes, or until skins start to fall off. Drain and put almonds in a towel. Dry them and rub off any remaining skins. When they have cooled and are dry, grind into flour in a food processor or blender. Make sure you don’t overgrind then into a paste. Then, you have to make marzipan or halva.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread almond flour evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and raise heat to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until browned, about 8 minutes. Immediately transfer to a bowl with browned bits. Let cool.
Combine flours and sugar in the bowl of a mixer. Add whites, and beat on medium speed until combined and sugar is incorporated. With machine running, pour in cooled browned butter (with brown bits) in a slow, steady stream. Continue to beat for 3 minutes. Batter can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Butter muffin tins or a cast-iron pan with bar-shaped indentations. Fill halfway with batter. Bake until dark gold around the edges, about 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of the pan. Remove from oven, and immediately transfer financiers from pan to a wire rack. Let cool. Coat each with glaze if desired, or serve immediately.
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice, strained
4 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
Whisk together all ingredients until smooth. Pour over cakes. Glaze can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature, and whisk before using.