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Hazelnut Financiers

My friend Karin likes to pronounce financiers like the occupation, which I highly recommend.

I had a financier from The Little Door Next Door in Los Angeles a few years back that set my standard for these tiny cakes pretty high. It was crisp and caramelized on the edges and tender in the middle. It had an intense almond flavor and was completely delicious. Every other financier has paled in comparison, they can be sort of  insipidly sweet. Long story short, I had written off financiers.

Kir Jensen is an intrepid pastry chef who introduced herself to me over email a few months back. She runs a small pastry food cart in Portland called The Sugar Cube [1], but she had also worked in fancy kitchens in Chicago. She can now call herself a cookbook author. She spent last winter recording some of her favorite recipes for a book that was recently released by Chronicle [2]. Kir is a totally sweet and endearing email corespondent, but I honestly had no idea what to expect from the book. She sent me a copy last week and I read through almost the entire thing within 24 hours. For those of us who care about pastry, it is a great read and a wonderful resource. It is both totally irreverent and full of a Nancy Silverton-like abundance of  information and tips.

The first recipe I tried was for hazelnut financiers, or as Kir calls them Hazelnibbies (she adds cacao nibs). They are crazy good. This will be my base recipe for all future financier experiments (I’ve already tried an almond version—wonderful!). If you love hazelnuts, you need to make these as soon as possible. I am beyond excited to keep baking from this book.

Some notes:

Like Kir, I like my financiers thin and crisp. I baked these, as directed, in a whoopie pie pan that I just happened to have (my excuse [3]). The indentations in my pan are 3″x 1/2″ and I filled each with 1 ounce of batter. You could also use a muffin tin, but only fill each cavity with a 2-3 tablespoons.  The batter can hang out in the fridge, if needed. I chilled mine for a couple of hours before baking, but it would also be fine overnight. Don’t pull these too early, make sure they are nice and caramelized around the edge. Kir’s serving suggestion of honey and Maldon salt is spot on, do it. Also, I made a half recipe, which (with my pan) made about 16 financiers. The full recipe below would have you end up with 32+, which just seems like a lot of financiers, unless you were having a party. Do what you need to do.

Hazelnibbies ( from The Sugar Cube [4] by Kir Jensen)

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter the cups of a whoopie pie pan, or muffin tins.

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds with the back of a knife. Add to a small saute pan along with the pod and the butter and cook over medium heat until the butter darkens to a nutty brown and the solids drop to the bottom of the pan, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat and discard the vanilla bean pod. Give the butter a good whisk to disperse the little brown bits and vanilla seeds into the liquid before pouring 1 1/4 cups of it into a measuring cup. If you have any extra butter, refrigerate it for another use.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the toasted hazelnuts and the flour and process until the hazelnuts are finely ground, like almond flour. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Add the salt and confectioners’ sugar to the bowl and whisk to combine. Add the egg whites and browned butter and whisk again to combine. Stir in the nibs.

Fill each of the indentations of the whoopie pie pan with 2-3 tablespoons of the batter. Bake until golden, the sides look caramelized and the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 18 to 20 minutes.

Brush the vanilla syrup liberally over the still-warm financiers. Serve warm, drizzled with buckwheat honey and sprinkled with chopped hazelnuts and Maldon sea salt. They also keep well for a few days stored in an air-tight container.

Vanilla Syrup

Split the piece of vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds with the back of a knife. Add to a saucepan with the pod, the water and the sugar and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Let boil 1 minute and then remove from the heat.