Almond financiers with rosemary scented pears

November 5th, 2010  |  30 Comments

On my very first day, at my very first job, I thought I was going to get fired.

Up until that point, I’d never stepped foot in a restaurant kitchen, and as I knocked on the metal service-entry door, anticipating my first day, I was feeling like I was about to audition for a role opposite Brad Pitt — both excited and petrified. Just a few days earlier, I talked my way into coming in to “stage”, a Frenchie term that basically means “to try out”, and I could tell on the phone the chef was doubtful. He must have imagined me as an oblivious, clueless 9-5 professional, who thought she was going to waltz in and make cute little cake roses all day, sporting a “Kiss the Cook” apron, while listening to hits on the radio.

He thought wrong, my friends, he thought wrong, because I had done my homework, and I knew what to do to impress. I read two top-notch books about what it’s like to work in the biz, cracked my knuckles, and showed up raring to go.

The Making of a Pastry Chef: Recipes and Inspiration from America’s Best Pastry Chefs

The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America

When I was told to coat the pate-de-fruit cubes in sugar, I coated those suckers like I had a gun to my head. When I was asked to pop the chocolate bon bons into white fluted cups, I popped as though I’d been programmed to, all while keeping my head down, and refraining from chit chat.

It was working. I could sense the chef’s approval. A few hours later, he waved me over into the office, and announced that if I was interested, I could come in and apprentice. My instinct was to jump up and down and holler like a 5 year old, but I resisted. I was in! Have you ever gotten news that made you so elated, so lost in bliss, that you couldn’t concentrate on anything else?

Yeah.

Just as we returned to the prep area, he rattled off another task for me to do—the last task, he told me, and then I’d be dismissed. The instructions were clear: take the petit four molds (they looked like this), spray them with Pam, pipe in financier batter a little more than halfway up the sides (it was already made, mind you), and bake. Noooooo problem, whatever you say.

I spread the 200 molds out, all the while unable to stop myself from grinning at the sheet pan like I’d been lobotomized. I was practically bouncing. My mind was wandering frantically about all the future possibilities. I imagined myself spinning out into the dining room in crisp chef’s whites, delivering mouthwatering creations to expectant guests. I imagined all the praise and accolades that would come when I’d start a new dessert craze. I pictured myself quitting my day job and never looking back.

The financiers went in the oven and while they baked, I changed into my street clothes. It was mere minutes before dinner service kicked up into full swing and there was no space for me now. As I made my way back to check the cakes, I could see that the chef was already hunched over them, struggling with something. He was trying to pry them out of the molds with a paring knife and brute force, like a shoe cobbler pulling leather off a sole. They wouldn’t give. Only the surface ripped off, as a muffin top might, and a cold splash of realization suddenly hit me. I forgot to spray the molds! My heart hit the floor and I sputtered apologies as if it would change the fact that there weren’t enough petit fours for service. I offered to do them again, but there was no more batter. “Go home, Irina, go home” was all he could mutter with a heavy exasperation, and I did, before he could tell me not to come back.


***

Update: As soon as I found out Deeba was hosting a Monthly Mingle that involved fruit in baking, I immediately entered this dessert.

Almond Financier with Rosemary Scented Pears

makes 9 hockey puck-sized cakes, but you can keep the batter refrigerated and bake only as many as needed. I used these molds:

Matfer 12-Fluted Tin Brioche Mold, 2-3/4-Inch by-1-Inch, 25-Pack

or use muffin tins:

Farberware 52106 Nonstick Bakeware 12-Cup Muffin Pan

The special flavor of these cakes completely depends on browning the butter well.

For the financier:
1 stick (4 oz, or 112 g) unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups (200 g) powdered sugar
1/3 cup (42 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (42 g) almond flour 
4 large (about 1/2 cup, or  125 ml) egg whites

For the pears:
a quick glug, about 1 tablespoon canola oil
4 ripe bartlett pears
1/2 cup (125 ml) honey
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 cup white port or white wine

If you’re feelin’ fancy, these are optional additions:
chocolate sauce, found in this post
chopped almonds
vanilla ice cream, either home made or store bought. I like Haagen Dazs. This would also go well with this ginger ice cream
rosemary leaves, for ganish

1. The lineup:

 

2. In a large bowl, stir up the powdered sugar, flour and almond flour.

 

3. Pour on the egg whites…

 

…and whisk it all up until smooth.

 

4. Park the butter in a small, light-colored pot (so it’s easy to see the browning taking place), over high heat and watch it melt. Keep it cookin’. The goal is to brown it. We’re looking for a chestnut brown. The house will begin to have a very pleasant, nutty aroma, and you may think you’re in a bakery. That’s when it’s done.

financier-melt-butter

 

This will take about 5-7 minutes. The butter will release a lot of foam that will float on the surface, and it will be hard to see the butter color. You can either swirl the pan around, until you get a glimpse of how brown the butter really is, or scoop some up with a spoon. Be careful, because the time between perfectly brown, and burned is short. If your butter starts smoking, it’s too far gone.

 

This photo shows good color. I hope you can see through my blurry picture. Slowly pour the hot butter into the bowl, whisking all the while.

 

You’ll notice some soot that settled in the bottom of the pot. These remains are the burned milk solids and they are what give the cooked butter it’s coloring. You don’t want those in your batter. Once you reach this sediment, stop pouring.

 

Because there are no leavening agents like baking powder or baking soda, this batter keeps well refrigerated. If you like, you can keep this for days (about 4) and bake the cakes when you need them, which makes this a great make ahead dessert.

 

Now we’ll make the pears. These are best made the day you plan to serve and they can even sit around for a couple of hours. Here are the lovely ingredients:

 

Peel those pears…

 

…and cut the meat off all 4 sides, close to the core. They don’t have to be perfect in shape, of course, but try not get any of the core in your pieces. It’s too unpleasant to accidently bite into.

 

Here’s the pear army.

 

Heat a saute pan over high heat, pour in a quick dribble of canola oil…

 

…and throw in the pear pieces. Hopefully the pan was hot enough to give off a big sizzle. Don’t move the pears for about 30 seconds. Some of the pear surfaces will get nice sear marks. Then toss them around for a couple of minutes more before adding the honey.

 

In goes the honey.

 

And the rosemary sprigs.

 

Stir it all up. The pears will release their juices, and everything will look watery at first. Cook for a few minutes, about 5-7, until some of the liquid evaporates and the pears start to take on a glazed look. If you shake the pears in the pan, you can see that the sides start to look dry. Not much liquid pools up at the edge if you tilt the pan.

 

Test a couple of pieces with a paring knife to check for tenderness. The knife should slide in without much resistance. If the pears are still too hard, add a little more honey (2 tablespoons), and keep cooking until they become tender and the liquid evaporates away again.

 

Once the pears are tender to your preference, pour in the wine for some more yum, and wait for the alcohol to cook off — about a minute. If it catches a flame, don’t be alarmed. It will subside in a minute and you can now consider yourself a flambé expert.

 

Into a bowl it all goes. Now it can cool, and hang out on the counter until your ready to serve.

 

Now, we’ll bake the financiers. These can be baked up to a couple of hours before serving. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spread out the molds. I used fluted molds, about 2.5 inches in diameter. You don’t have to use fluted molds. That’s just what I happened to have. You can use muffin cups. Hopefully, thanks to my cautionary tale above, you’ll probably never forget to spray the molds first, either.

 

Spoon the batter in until they are half-way filled. If you are using muffin cups, fill them about 1/2 inch high.

 

Bake until they’re golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Mine took 20 minutes, but this will depend on the size of your mold. Just watch out for nice coloring, and that they’re not still wet and raw on top. Once baked, let them cool.

 

Cut the pears into small, even dice, and keep them in their liquid until you’re ready to serve.

 

Now for the plating that looks pretty, yet is quite simple to do. It’s easiest to work in an assembly line fashion, so finish each step on all the plates before proceeding.

Slice the cake in half and line up in a parallel fashion on a plate. It’s ok if the edges are a little raggedy. They’ll be hidden.

 

Drain off the pear liquid, and spoon some pear dice in the center and behind the cakes. Sprinkle some chopped almonds in front. They serve as a bed for the ice cream scoop, so it doesn’t slide around the plate.

 

Finally, finish with a scoop of ice cream placed on top of the almonds. If you’re in the mood, drizzle some chocolate sauce around the plate. I used a plastic squeeze bottle to make different sized dots. Then, I used a couple of rosemary leaves for a little green color, and to give a visual hint to the rosemary flavor in the pears, but I have to be honest, eating big pieces of rosemary is not particularly appealing. Maybe just a small sprig in one spot is more than enough and people can remove it and put it to the side.

Take a bow, because your guests will be clapping.

 

If you want more of a casual, snacky dessert, just top the cakes with some sliced pears and munch to your heart’s content.

Almond Financier with Rosemary Scented Pears

makes 9 hockey puck-sized cakes, but you can keep the batter refrigerated and bake only as many as needed. I used these molds:

Matfer 12-Fluted Tin Brioche Mold, 2-3/4-Inch by-1-Inch, 25-Pack

or use muffin tins:

Farberware 52106 Nonstick Bakeware 12-Cup Muffin Pan

The special flavor of these cakes completely depends on browning the butter well.


For the financier:
1 stick (4 oz, or 112 g) unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups (200 g) powdered sugar
1/3 cup (42 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (42 g) almond flour 
4 large (about 1/2 cup, or  125 ml) egg whites

For the pears:
a quick glug, about 1 tablespoon canola oil
4 ripe bartlett pears
1/2 cup (125 ml) honey
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 cup white port or white wine

If you’re feelin’ fancy, these are optional additions:
chocolate sauce, found in this post
chopped almonds
vanilla ice cream, either home made or store bought. I like Haagen Dazs. This would also go well with this ginger ice cream
rosemary leaves, for ganish


For the batter

1. In a large bowl, stir up the powdered sugar, flour and almond flour.

2. Pour on the egg whites, and whisk it all up until smooth.

3. Park the butter in a small, light-colored pot (so it’s easy to see the browning taking place), over high heat and watch it melt. Keep it cookin’. The goal is to brown it. We’re looking for a chestnut brown. The house will begin to have a very pleasant, nutty aroma, and you may think you’re in a bakery. That’s when it’s done.

This will take about 5-7 minutes. The butter will release a lot of foam that will float on the surface, and it will be hard to see the butter color. You can either swirl the pan around, until you get a glimpse of how brown the butter really is, or scoop some up with a spoon. Be careful, because the time between perfectly brown, and burned is short. If your butter starts smoking, it’s too far gone.

4. Slowly pour the hot butter into the bowl, whisking all the while. You’ll notice some soot that settled in the bottom of the pot. These remains are the burned milk solids and they are what give the cooked butter it’s coloring. You don’t want those in your batter. Once you reach this sediment, stop pouring.

Note: Because there are no leavening agents like baking powder or baking soda, this batter keeps well refrigerated. If you like, you can keep this for days (about 4) and bake the cakes when you need them, which makes this a great make ahead dessert.

Make the pears

These are best made the day you plan to serve and they can even sit around for a couple of hours.

1. First, peel those pears, then cut the meat off all 4 sides, close to the core. They don’t have to be perfect in shape, of course, but try not get any of the core in your pieces. It’s too unpleasant to accidently bite into.

2. Heat a saute pan over high heat, pour in a quick dribble of canola oil, and throw in the pear pieces. Hopefully the pan was hot enough to give off a big sizzle. Don’t move the pears for about 30 seconds. Some of the pear surfaces will get nice sear marks. Then toss them around for a couple of minutes more before adding the honey.

3. Add the honey and the rosemary sprigs. Stir it all up. The pears will release their juices, and everything will look watery at first. Cook for a few minutes, about 5-7, until some of the liquid evaporates and the pears start to take on a glazed look. If you shake the pears in the pan, you can see that the sides start to look dry. Not much liquid pools up at the edge if you tilt the pan.

Test a couple of pieces with a paring knife to check for tenderness. The knife should slide in without much resistance. If the pears are still too hard, add a little more honey (2 tablespoons), and keep cooking until they become tender and the liquid evaporates away again.

5. Once the pears are tender to your preference, pour in the wine for some more yum, and wait for the alcohol to cook off — about a minute. If it catches a flame, don’t be alarmed. It will subside in a minute and you can now consider yourself a flambé expert.

Into a bowl it all goes. Now it can cool, and hang out on the counter until your ready to serve.

Bake the financiers

1. These can be baked up to a couple of hours before serving. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spread out the molds. I used fluted molds, about 2.5 inches in diameter. You don’t have to use fluted molds. That’s just what I happened to have. You can use muffin cups. Spoon the batter in until they are half-way filled. If you are using muffin cups, fill them about 1/2 inch high.

2. Bake until they’re golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Mine took 20 minutes, but this will depend on the size of your mold. Just watch out for nice coloring, and that they’re not still wet and raw on top. Once baked, let them cool.

3. Slice the pears and fan them out on top of the cakes. You can also serve with ice cream.

If you’d like to do a restaurant-style plating, see here.








30 Responses to “Almond financiers with rosemary scented pears”

  1. Your blog is such a treat to read! I think you’ll be one of my online baking mentors :).
    I’m taking a pastry course at FCI. So, whatever you say…I’m all ears…you’ve got my attention.

    Your photography is wonderful to view as well.

    Carmen

  2. PastryPal says:

    Carmen, You’re so sweet — that is the nicest thing you could have said. My cheeks are getting a little flushed from embarrassment. What kind of course are you taking? If you want to talk pastry, I’m all over it!

  3. Amy says:

    Wow, those are FAAAAANCY! Looks great and great pics!

  4. PastryPal says:

    Thanks, Amy!

  5. Jessica says:

    Thanks for the story! I’m sure I’ll be running into situations like that very soon once I start my stage after I graduate from pastry school!

    Love the plating.

  6. PastryPal says:

    Jessica — Screwing up a lot in the beginning is like a rite of passage. By the way, I checked out your blog and the desserts they’re teaching you in school look stunning. I love that you dropped everything and went to Paris to study pastry!

  7. Deeba@PAB says:

    You got me hanging on to EVERY word you wrote Irina. What a gorgeous post, and so detailed. Clever to add the incident first…it made me smile, it made my heart skip a beat…Oh no, it screamed, no no, she didn’t! Yikes girl, what an absolute nightmare … but in retrospect, what a great tale to tell!
    Thank you for these gorgeous financiers. I ♥ your plating, and I love the way you brought it together. I am so glad to be hosting the mingle this month!
    I’m now pastry obsessed these days…just made Ottolenghi’s puff pastry 2 days ago…YUM!

  8. PastryPal says:

    Deeba—Aw, thank you. It was enjoyable to write, and that day is obviously one that is forever in my memory.

    And do you mean to tell me you’re more pastry obsessed than usual? Seems like you’re making stuff EVERY DAY! I don’t know how you do it.

  9. Cyndy says:

    Oh my, I would of shriveled up and died had I been in your shoes that day. I can only imagine what went thru your mind. These are beautiful and the pears look light and delicious. I can’t wait to try the recipes.

  10. PastryPal says:

    Cyndy — Ugh, I still cringe when I think about it.

  11. Crystal says:

    Wow! This is the first time I’ve visited your blog and I’m amazed at how well done the recipe is and how many photos there are explaining everything. Well done!

  12. PastryPal says:

    Crystal — Welcome, and I hope you stick around!

  13. Astrid says:

    When I scan the various updates on my blog reader, you can bet I perk up when I see PastryPal has a new post. Fun prose, detailed and precise instructions, elegant photos, delicious recipes… This is food blog gold!

  14. PastryPal says:

    Astrid — I really appreciate that you notice all my efforts and so glad to see you here regularly :)

  15. Deanna says:

    I bet you’ve never forgotten the cooking spray since! I love hearing your restaurant stories – as you’re telling it I almost feel like I was right there with you!

  16. PastryPal says:

    Deanna — I almost relish making big mistakes because nothing reinforces the right way better than screwing up!

  17. Wow I don’t know if I could handle that pressure. Thanks for sharing this lovely recipe!

  18. Rosemary and pears…That sounds so delicious. It’s 1am here and reading your blog makes me hungry…

  19. Ahh these look gorgeous. Lovely plating :)
    Your story sounds fun. A weird reaction, I know, but I would love to work in a restaurant like that!

  20. Sally says:

    Your step by step pictures are incredible and very interesting. I like the less formal version but admire you for doing the posh version too!

  21. Sasa says:

    It looks like you remembered to spray them this time ;P I, like you, used to work in a kitchen (not in pastry though, on the line and also in a deli and various catering gigs) so I’m interested to see more of your writing ^_^

  22. PastryPal says:

    Hey Sasa, Looking forward to swapping back-of-the-house stories :).

  23. Pei Lin says:

    Hi Irina, is it possible to reduce the amount of powdered sugar used in the batter without causing too much “harm” to the final cake?

  24. PastryPal says:

    Hi Pei Lin — Once you start reducing, the texture might suffer. Having said that, I think you can get away with reducing up to 1/3 cup (40 g) and still have a pretty good result.

  25. [...] adapted from Pastry Pal Please hop over to Pastry Pal for a step-by-step tutorial with photos! [...]

  26. I have prepared the financiers with pears this afternoon and they were delicious. Thanks for the recipe!

  27. Tina says:

    Do I use bleached or unbleached all-purpose flour? In general, which would be best for making cakes?

    Thank you for your reply.

  28. PastryPal says:

    Tina — You can use either, with almost identical results. The unbleached is healthier because it hasn’t been processed to make it snow white. It’s usually more expensive, though.

  29. Moo says:

    Your blog is an inspiration!
    I desperately want to bake for a living…. but, alas, I teach. (Which I know is a fantastic job and I love it, but I really, really, really want to bake!!!) Please keep this blog coming, I LOVE IT!!! Thank you sooooooo much. Moo x

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