Fresh Apricot Hazelnut Financiers

Fresh Apricot Hazelnut Financiers

Okay friends, I'm not going to yammer on too much about this recipe because apricot season is already coming to a close, and I've been sitting on this post for weeks.  So I'll keep it short and sweet.  All you need to know to whet your appetite is: 

Apricots + Hazelnuts + Brown Butter

Amirite?  If you've never had them, financiers (or friands) are tiny French cakes very similar to madeleines.  However, apart from their shapes, the key difference is that financiers get much of their flavor from browned butter.  They're also typically made with some almond flour, but I prefer toasted hazelnut because it doubles down on the nuttiness provided by the butter.  And I love using fresh apricots in cakes since a sweet batter usually plays nicely against the tart fruit.

These little beauties aren't very tricky to make.  You can either toast pre-ground hazelnut meal, or toast whole hazelnuts and grind them with some of the powdered sugar like I did. You can even make the browned butter the day before.  Just be sure to reheat it so that it's hot when you pour it into the cake batter; otherwise it won't emulsify.

I used these egg tart pans because I had them, but you can use traditional rectangular molds or even a mini cupcake pan.  It just depends on what you have available.  The only restrictions are that the pans should be small, shallow, and metal since the cakes' edges won't crisp as nicely in silicone.  And if you can't bake all 20 cakes at the same time, cut the recipe in half and make it twice.  Don't make all the batter at once and let it sit because the second batch won't rise.

That's it.  Post over.  The season is ending.  GO.  Get your apricots before it's too late! :)

Fresh Apricot Hazelnut Financiers

Yields about 20 small cakes (I used these pans)

Ingredients

170 g (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (will reduce to about 128 g browned butter)
84 g toasted hazelnut meal (see Note 1)
236 g powdered confectioners' sugar
90 g all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 vanilla bean, scraped (or 1/2 tsp vanilla paste)
20 g corn syrup or honey
240 g egg whites (from about 7-8 large eggs), room temperature
4-5 fresh apricots
Powdered sugar for dusting

Directions

Brown Butter
Start by making brown butter.  Cook the unsalted butter in a small skillet over medium heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.  First it will froth up and bubble, then most of the froth will disappear, and the solids on the bottom will begin to turn golden brown and smell nutty.  Once this happens, pour the butter into a small bowl to cool, making sure to scrape the toasted solids into the bowl.  Be sure to reweigh the brown butter to ensure that you have 128 grams.  If you don't have enough, you could just melt a little extra butter into it.  Set aside.

Toasted Hazelnut Meal
Next, make toasted hazelnut meal.  If you don't already have toasted hazelnuts, you can read how make them to here.  Then weigh 84 grams of the toasted hazelnuts and place some of them into a spice grinder (like this), along with a couple tablespoons of the measured powdered sugar.  You could use a food processor, but it likely won't grind the nuts finely enough.  Pulse until finely ground.  Use a small spatula to scrape up the oily meal stuck to the bottom of the grinder, and dump it all out into a fine mesh sieve over a bowl.  Then sift.  You'll want to get the meal as fine as possible.  It may take a couple tries, pulsing the leftover large pieces and remaining whole nuts with a little more powdered sugar each time.  Continue to grind and sift until all of the meal has been ground finely.  Next, sift in the remaining powdered sugar, as well as the flour.  The finished cakes should be very light and tender, so you'll need to make sure that the dry ingredients are free of clumps.  Finally, add the baking powder and whisk gently to combine everything.  Set aside.

Assembly (see Note 2)
Preheat the oven to 425°F (standard).  Then brush your small cake tins or mini cupcake pan with extra melted butter (not browned), and place them in the fridge or freezer to chill.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the seeds from the scraped vanilla bean, the corn syrup (or honey), and the egg whites.  Whisk briskly for about 10 seconds, until frothy, to break up the egg whites and incorporate the other ingredients.  Set aside.

Lastly, pit the apricots and slice them into small wedges.  Cut at least 40 wedges since you'll want two per cake.  Sandwich the wedges between paper towels so that the excess moisture gets absorbed while you finish making the batter.

When you're ready to bake, remove the chilled, buttered pans from the fridge/freezer and arrange them on baking sheets.  Gather a pastry bag or a gallon-sized plastic bag and fit it with a large round piping tip (see Note 3).  Do not cut a hole in the bag just yet.  You'll also need to warm the browned butter back up if it has cooled down too much.  It needs to be very warm to emulsify the batter.  Just reheat it in the microwave for about 30 seconds until hot to the touch.

Now, make a well in the center of your dry ingredients, then pour in the egg mixture.  Gently whisk in the center of the bowl, gradually pulling in a little of the dry ingredients at a time until fully combined.  Then whisk in the warm brown butter in two additions, scraping the bowl between them.  Be sure to get the solids out of the butter bowl - that's where the flavor is!  Next, pour the batter into your pastry bag, folding the tip up so that batter doesn't flow all the way down.  When you're ready, cut off the tip of the bag and carefully pipe the batter in to the pans, stopping a 1/2 inch (1 cm) from the top edge.  Once all of the pans have been filled, place two apricot wedges in each tin, facing each other like parentheses.

Place the pans (on baking sheets), in the oven's middle rack(s), and immediately turn the temperature down to 350°F.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until the cakes are puffed, golden, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  As soon as they're done, pop them out of the tins and let them cool completely on a cooling rack.  Dust with powdered sugar, and enjoy them right away!

Seriously, these are best eaten the day they're made.  Unfortunately, they don't do well overnight.  But you can stretch their shelf life by a day if you store them in an airtight container, then reheat and dry them a bit in an oven at 300°F for about 5-10 minutes.  Otherwise, the moisture leached by the fresh apricots will turn them to mush.

Notes

  1. If you don't have whole [toasted] hazelnuts, you could try toasting pre-ground hazelnut meal at 350°F (standard) for 15 minutes or so.  Just watch it very carefully and stir it every 5 minutes to ensure even toasting.  Once it's golden brown, remove it from the pan and allow it to cool, stirring occasionally to help it release trapped heat.
     
  2. If you're unable to bake all 20 at the same time (tiny oven, not enough pans, etc.), then split the batter ingredients in half.  It's better to make the batter twice than to make all of the batter at once and let half of it sit.  The baking powder will react too soon and the second batch of cakes won't rise well.
     
  3. You don't have to pipe the batter into the pans; you could just use a small spoon.  But because the batter is runny and the pans are so small, it's really easy to make a mess if you aren't careful.  Using a piping bag just helps ensure that the batter doesn't get everywhere.
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