Carrot & Mace Financiers
Words & Photography by Sophia Real
Triumphs of the culinary sort are often belittled, maybe rightly so given they hardly lead to world peace. Yet to someone as obsessed with food as I am, they can make your day, even your week sometimes. And if I am being honest, finally getting financiers right may have made my year.
Financiers are simple enough, and provided you have some egg whites left over from making ice cream and a well-stocked pantry, there is not much in the way of enjoying your afternoon tea with a side of buttery French decadence. Yet, as is often the case with recipes requiring only a handful of ingredients, technique is everything and the more recipes for financiers I looked at, the more confusing things became.
I started out with the recipe from a famous French food writer which asked me to whip the egg whites to stiff peaks, just like when making meringues. While the result was delicious, it had hardly anything in common with the little cakes I love so much. Instead, I ended up with what can only be described as a buttery chiffon cake. I put the famous French food writer’s book back on the shelf and decided to research financiers recipes.
Initially, the more I read the more confusing things became, as techniques for making financiers varied widely. One author had me warming the egg whites with the sugar and almond flour until hot to the touch and runny before incorporating the remaining ingredients. Some recipes simply asked for all the ingredients to be stirred together in one bowl. Yet another recipe included instructions for chilling the batter before baking (an instruction typically included for madeleines where the contrast between the cold batter and the hot oven helps create the little humps on the back of the madeleines), an instruction that was missing from all other financiers recipes I came across.
The more batches of financiers I baked and the more recipes I looked at, it became clear that, as so often in life, simple is best, and that to make perfect financiers you do not need any fancy kitchen equipment, not even any elbow grease. All you need is a simple bowl and a whisk. The trick is to whisk the egg whites until they have increased ever so slightly in volume, are frothy and starting to turn opaque, before dumping in your dry ingredients, which you simply stir in carefully. The result? A set of delicious nutty little cakes with a bit of bite that have no reason to hide behind the countless financiers I ate last year whenever I got the chance (all in the name of research of course).
Since conquering financiers I have tried substituting different types of flours and various ground nuts and seeds for the commonly used plain flour and ground almonds, all with wonderful results. My favourite so far might be this recipe for carrot and mace financiers, where grated carrots stand in for the ground almonds.
Although we often associate root vegetables with cold autumn and winter days, carrots are fact in season all year long and for a short while during spring you can get hold of deliciously sweet and tender new season carrots. Flavoured with warming mace, nutmeg’s bolder cousin, these rustic financiers are both a reminder of the colder days we have just left behind us, the days when every dish seemed to be built around warming spices, as well as a promise of the warmer days to come and the fruit and vegetable bounty they will bring to our farmers markets.
3 egg whites
1 small carrot, grated finely
90g unsalted butter, browned and cooled
90g wholemeal spelt flour
1 large pinch of mace
75g light muscovado sugar
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease 6 medium muffin tins with some butter or oil.
2. In a large bowl whisk the egg whites just until frothy.
3. Add the grated carrot to a clean tea towel and squeeze out any excess juices. Weigh out 20g of the grated carrot and discard the rest.
4. Pour the butter over the egg whites, add the flour, mace, sugar and grated carrot and stir everything together carefully. Distribute the batter evenly among the muffin tins and place in the oven for 20 minutes until the financiers are golden and a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the financiers comes out clean.
5. Leave financiers to cool for a couple of minutes before carefully removing from the tins (and make sure to not leave them in their tins for too long, as they have a tendency to stick if not removed quickly).