July 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
People, this is a difficult post to write. I am currently on day 6 of a 30 day cleanse (the whys and wherefores of which I’ll save for another day). Needless to say, cake does not feature as a central part of a detox diet, other than in cravings and dream-form. As such, trailing through the pictures of Suzanne Goin’s almond financier cake this morning is akin to a form of mild torture only made bearable by frequent trips to the almond butter pot downstairs. But I am prepared to put myself through this pain for you because, quite simply, you have to know about this cake. It’s a dream: a crumb that is miraculously both heavy from the almond meal and yet light from the egg whites all at once, and oh-so-moist from the eye-watering amounts of butter that go into the batter. Not just any butter, mind, but that which has been melted and browned with a vanilla pod until nutty and fragrant, leaving dark, fragrant flecks right through the cake.
On its own the cake is spectacular and I promise you will find yourself trying to slice off just a slither (no-one will notice) every half hour or so. But where it really shines is as a foil for the fruits of the season. The almond-butter-vanilla combination perfectly sets off stone fruits, figs, berries – whatever is good where you are right now. Goin recommends serving with nectarines and berries, which was sublime, but play around with combinations and see what shines – if you still have rhubarb in season I could see a warm dollop of compote working really nicely. A soft heaping of whipped cream or creme fraiche doesn’t hurt either.
Finally, the cake batter calls for 6 egg whites. Hello leftover yolks! This screams one thing only to me: ice-cream. I use David Lebovitz’s recipe for what I think of as the Platonic vanilla ice-cream from A Perfect Scoop which is also available on his website. If you’re going to have a vanilla ice-cream in your repertoire, make it this one. Of course, we have to try the ice-cream with the cake, and so another round of fruit, cream, cake combinations ensues. I implore you to go off and do the same: I’ll be dribbling from afar.
Almond Financier with Seasonal Fruits
Adapted from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (260g) unsalted butter, plus a little extra for the pan
1 vanilla bean
3/4 cup all purpose (plain) flour
3/4 cup confectioners’ (icing) sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup almond meal/flour (ground almonds)
1/4 tsp salt
6 egg whites (from large eggs)
2 tbsp honey
Lightly butter the sides and bottom of a 9 inch round pan. I also lined the bottom with parchment paper to be super cautious. (NB the batter will later rest in the fridge for an hour, so you can prepare the pan at that point if you prefer).
Place the butter in a medium saute pan. Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and use a small sharp knife to scrape the seeds and pulp onto the butter. Goin offers the great tip of running your knife through the butter to make sure every precious seed makes it to the pan. Add the vanilla pod as well and cook the butter and vanilla over a medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. You are looking for the butter to brown and smell nutty, but be careful not to burn it. Discard the vanilla pod (you can wash and dry and it and put it in your sugar jar to add fragrance). Set the butter to one side and keep it warm.
While the butter is browning, sift together the flour, confectioners’ sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the almond meal and salt and stir to combine well.
Beat the egg whites in a medium bowl until frothy. White the whites and the honey into the dry ingredients. Next, whisk the brown butter into the batter, and be sure to get all the little brown bits from the pan (these are the tastiest parts!).
Let the batter rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350F/170C. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar over the top. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the cake is a deep golden brown and pulls away from the sides of the pan. It will be springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the centre should come out clean. Cool on a wire rack and serve with fruits and cream (or ice-cream).