February 24, 2012

Frühling Financiers

Frühling kommt! That means 'spring is coming'. My German classes are slowly beginning to pay off, although I will admit that I used google translate just to make sure I had gotten that right. I guess confidence will come with time and a lot more practice. Anyway, the deep freeze seems to be over, thank goodness, and it's actually warm-ish out (when you have a deep freeze, anything over freezing is considered warm, but today it's actually 50º). I was beginning to think I'd never go outside again, that my pom-pom hat would be a wardrobe stable forever and that I'd never wear sandals again. Alas, I can feel the sun on my face, and it feels heavenly. The deep freeze seemed to have hit the blog as well, so my apologies if you were visiting in the hopes of finding some Haus warmth and goodies.

I've had this financier recipe on my 'to-bake' list ever since we got back from our trip to Paris. We went to the boulangeries to buy baguettes, but it's impossible to just by baguettes, so we often left with other goodies, like pain au chocolat, brioche, madeleines, and financiers. All weekend there were goodies spilling out of my purse and thankfully there were some delicious treats hidden in the bottom of my purse that I didn't discover until we were already back in Zürich on Sunday night. Hidden in that little brown bag were two madeleines and three financiers. I sampled both for breakfast on Monday, and although both were worthy of a return trip to Paris, the financier really caught my attention. The perfectly crisp exterior gave way to a moist and flavorful almond interior and I knew after the first bite that I had to find a worthy recipe that I could make at home.
Here are the authentic Parisian madeline and financier. I'm surprised they made it all the way back to Zürich. I think we were so stuffed after a weekend of delicacies and baguettes that by the time Sunday night came around we were unenthused by any baked goods.
Almond Financiers with Strawberries
Recipe adapted from Epicurious

* My one suggestion is to weigh the ingredients. A cup of almond flour is not an accurate measurement as some flours can be lighter or denser than others.

* I don't have financier molds so I used mini cupcake molds.

- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter for buttering financier molds
- 1 cup (140g) finely ground almonds
- 1 2/3 cup (210g) confectioners sugar
- 1/2 cup (70g) all purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup (185g) egg whites (5 to 6)
- 3/4 cup (185g/6oz) unsalted butter melted and cooled
- sliced strawberries for top

Preheat oven to 450ºF/230ºC

Using a pastry brush thoroughly butter the molds. Place the molds or cupcake tin in the freezer to resolidify the butter, which will make it easier to unmold the financiers.

In a large bowl combine the almonds, sugar, flour, and salt. Mix to blend. Add the egg whites, mixing until blended. Follow with the 3/4 cup butter and continue to stir/mix until incorporated. The mixture should be fairly thin and pourable.

Spoon the batter into the molds, filling them almost to the rim. Top each with a strawberry slice or two. Place the molds/cupcake tin on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake until the financiers just begin to rise (about 7 min) then reduce the heat to 400ºF/205ºC. Continue baking until the financiers are a light, delicate brown and begin to firm up (another 7 min). Turn off the oven heat and let the financiers rest in the oven until firm (another 7 minutes). Timing might be less depending on your mold/tin - just be sure to check for rise-browning. Mine were about 5-6 minutes instead of 7.

Remove the financiers from the oven and allow them to cool in their molds for 10 minutes. Enjoy for breakfast or with your afternoon coffee!
In our house these were a breakfast treat, but they would be great at any time of the day. These were so good, actually one of Zach's favorites, that I think I will keep them on a fairly steady rotation, and will certainly make a batch when we have guests.
Hopefully this post marks the end of the blog freeze. It's time to start browsing cookbooks and revisiting my 'to-bake' list. With spring approaching I'm feeling the need for a little less baking and a bit more spinach, so perhaps I'll finally get my act together and post some lunch/dinner recipes (always harder to photograph).

February 06, 2012

1º banana bread

You know how every once and awhile you just need to get something off your chest? Perhaps you call it whining, but I prefer to call it venting. Please excuse me while I vent for a few short little sentences. IT IS FREEZING. For the last week it hasn't been above 15º F. Today the low is 1º F, yes ONE degree. I'm sitting at our dinning room table, fully outfitted with a cashmere sweater, thick wool knee socks, a scarf and a blanket. I refuse to go outside. The last time I went outside I thought I'd lost my nose and toes to frostbite. And that was just from walking next door to German class, literally NEXT door. Okay, I'll stop venting and using capitals, but I just want you, my dear readers and friends, who live in The States and have been enjoying unseasonably warm weather, to know that while you frolic there are those of us who freeze.

Since I refuse to go outside I've had to limit my cooking to ingredients we have in our pantry, and on our countertop. Behold the rotting bananas! It didn't take long before they were mashed, mixed into a buttery dough, poured into a loaf pan, and baked with the company of chocolate chips, until moist and fragrant. In my world there is no such thing as banana bread without chocolate chips. The two go together. I always leave out any nuts that recipes call for and take it upon myself to substitute a healthy amount of chocolate chips. I've tried a variety of banana bread recipes in the past, but this one turned out especially well. Maybe the bananas were just ripe/rotten enough, or perhaps I baked it for the perfect amount of time, or maybe the cooking gods felt bad for me and my frozen toes and made me an offering of a perfect banana bread. Generally when I bake a cake, Zach and I can get through about half of it and then we get bored with it or we just feel like we've eaten too much cake, but with the banana bread we had to fight for the last piece, which wasn't really a fair fight since Zach wakes up earlier than I do and was able to eat it for breakfast. I'd make some again right this minute if the bananas on our counter were brown and mushy instead of yellow and hard.
The last time I posted I was complaining that it was grey and not snowing. HA! Well now it's sunny and there is snow on the ground, but it's absolutely frigid. I can't decide which is worse....grey and a bit warmer or sunny and freezing. Either way, both seem to call for bread with a dot or two of extra butter.
Banana Bread
adapted from Mark Bittman 'How to Cook Everything'

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

8 tablespoons / 1 stick / 113 g butter at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork until smooth
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2-1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC and grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Mix the dry ingredients (flours, salt, baking powder) in a bowl

Cream the butter and sugar until light in color and fluffy in texture. Add in the eggs one at a time and then the mashed bananas, mixing until just incorporated.

Slowly add in the dry ingredients, mixing just enough to combine. Gently stir in the vanilla and chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 45-60 minutes (mine took exactly 60) or until top is browned and cake tester inserted in the center comes out fairly clean. Because of the bananas, this bread will stay moister than most. Be careful not to over bake this bread. Cool on a wire wrack for 15 minutes and then flip the loaf out.
Now I have to figure out what I comb through our cupboards in search of edible dinner items. Hmmm. You can only eat so many gerkins.

If it's warm where you are (over 32ºF) please spend some time outside for all of us shivering in Switzerland.