The first time I ever had a browned butter tea cake, I fell in love. Not with the guy I was out with at the time, but with the tea cake itself. Here’s the backstory: I was a junior in high school at the time, and on a second date with a fellow from another school (Let’s call him Fast Walker). We had been childhood friends and then lost touch, only reconnecting at a football game after-party. On our first date, we went to dinner and walked around a duckpond in the neighborhood talking about what had transpired in the past 7 years since we had seen each other.
The date sounds more romantic than it actually was. Now, I am a fast walker, or at least I can be. That’s what happens when you have a mother who stands a shade over 6 feet tall in her bare feet. Fast Walker was determined to stay just a half step ahead of me. When I quickened my pace to walk even with him, he took a longer stride. We ended up half jogging around the lake as we tried to talk. After 20 minutes of this, I was starting to feel short of breath and looked at my watch and mumbled something about needing to get him for curfew.
I don’t know what prompted me to say yes to a second date. Inexperience, most likely. Fast Walker and I were going to have lunch with a friend of his and a friend of mine as a double date. Fast Walker also needed to pay a parking ticket, and since we were going to be in downtown, he took me to the courthouse building with him, walking three steps ahead of me the whole way. I kept feeling like an errant puppy being dragged along. After the errand, we headed to the Heathman Restaurant in downtown Portland. I don’t remember what we talked about, or what I had for lunch. I do remember after lunch sipping a thick hot cocoa with piles of soft whipped cream, and the almond tea cakes. Golden brown and soft int he center with just the barest toothsome crunch around the exterior, the rectangular financiers had such a lovely, barely-sweet, nutty flavor. I asked my server how they could possibly coax that depth of flavor from the almonds, and she told me that the secret was browned butter. Mind blown! I sighed with a soft smile and got all googly-eyed, as teenagers do. Fast Walker thought he was the reason for my smile, and tried to kiss me. I furrowed my brow, shook my head, and pulled away. Needless to say, there was no third date.
♥ ♥ ♥
Anyone who knows me also knows that I am a fat-junkie. Whipped cream, butter, bacon fat, avocado: I love it! And I strongly believe that the only flavor better than butter is beurre noisette, or browned butter. Melting the butter over medium-low heat and occasionally swirling the pot to ensure all the milk solids are caramelizing at the same rate, let the color of the butter turn from pale sunshine yellow the hazelnut-skin tan, and then incorporating that richness into baked goods might just be my favorite thing. Even more so than eating chocolate-hazelnut butter off a spoon!
I regularly make financiers with almonds at the bake shop. But when my friend KC from GFreeFoodie asked me to make financiers for her—and then disclosed that she’s allergic to almonds—I knew it was a natural fit to make these with hazelnut meal instead.
I start off making the dark chocolate ganache to drop into the center of each financier. Making the ganache ahead of time ensures that it can cool off to the proper temperature (and thicken up) before you use it.
- 2/3 cup dark chocolate
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- ¾ cup butter
- 3 Tablespoons of butter, melted
- 1 ½ cups ground hazelnut meal
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- ¼ cup potato starch
- ¼ cup tapioca starch
- 1 teaspoon salt
- egg whites from 5 large eggs
- Place the dark chocolate pieces in a glass or metal bowl. In a small sauce pot, scald the cream until the edges of the pot are just starting to bubble. Do not boil! Pour over the chocolate and let sit for a moment, to melt the chocolate. Stir slowly to incorporate the cream and chocolate together. It should start to thicken up as the chocolate gets melted completely and incorporated into the cream. Set in the fridge to chill and thicken even more. You are aiming for the consistency of peanut butter.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small pot, heat the ¾ cups of butter over medium-high heat, occasionally swirling the pan until the butter begins to bubble and turn brown. Set aside to cool.
- Using a pastry brush, spread the 3 tablespoons of melted butter into 30 cavities of the mini muffin tins. Set aside.
- Whisk together the hazelnut meal, powdered sugar, potato starch, tapioca starch and salt. Add the egg whites and whisk to combine. While whisking vigorously, pour the browned butter into the batter and blend to a uniform texture. Using a small food scoop, fill each of the prepared muffin cavities 2/3 full. Bake 4 minutes to begin to set the financiers. While the little cakes are baking, fill a small pastry bag with chilled chocolate ganache. Pull the cakes from the oven, squeeze a small dollop of ganache into the center of each cake, and return the cakes to the oven. Drop the oven temperature to 350 degrees and finish baking until lightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 8-10 minutes.
- Remove onto cooling racks and let cool at least 10 minutes before you eat them (so the ganache doesn't burn your mouth!).
- Optional: lightly dust the financiers with additional powdered sugar before serving.
- If you don't care to use ganache, feel free to use jam or preserves instead. Apricot pairs nicely with the hazelnut flavor. Of course, using a storebought chocolate-hazelnut spread is also delicious, if you make sure the spread goes in the financiers and not just in your mouth.
- I buy my hazelnut meal from Bob's Red Mill and it works just fine!