I eat a lot of egg yolks. Luckily, egg whites freeze well. That said, the collection of egg whites that I have collected in the freezer recently reached a critical mass. I considered making pavlova or macaroons, but these delicious treats are as delicate as clouds and what I really needed was a treat that could be eaten from a tupperware on the subway ride from my day job to my night job. I know, the glamour is overwhelming right? So, I decided to make a financier which is a kind of cake which stars nut flour, egg whites and lots of melted butter (their rich..get it?). To be accurate I made many, many financiers because I had a lot of egg whites and also financiers turn out to be exactly the kind of portable tea time treat that I needed. Who knew that something called a financier could make such good working person’s treat? By the way, Lemon Mochiko Cake is another good portable treat…although it will do nothing to diminish your egg white collection.
So I made a bunch of financier recipes. The recipe for Brown Butter- Hazelnut Financier in Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri by far my favourite. I made it with buckwheat flour so that it would be gluten-free and hoped that this small change would not ruin Mr Malgieri’s recipe, since his recipes are are, as the book title suggests, perfect. The result had a fabulous springy texture and this crazy good sugar crust magically formed on the top. It mostly tasted like rum, which is generally okay with me, but I was sort of hoping that it would taste more of hazelnut.
The other winning recipe was this one from the excellent food blog Cannelle et Vanille. I was denser and it did not have a magical sugar crust, but the combination of browned butter, hazelnut, buckwheat and lemon rind (rather than rum) is representative of Aran Goyoaga’s ingenious flavour combinations. So, the following recipe is a mash-up of these two favourites and I am very, very pleased with it.
SInce this kind of cake is very dependent on the egg whites for structure, it is a good idea to leave your egg whites sitting uncovered in the fridge for a day or so to dry them out a bit and age them. Older, dryer egg whites whip up better, which is part of why egg whites respond well to sitting around in your freezer. Also they like to be at room temperature before you whip them.
- 1 cup (4 ounces) hazelnuts
- 10 tablespoons butter
- 1 and 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup buckwheat flour
- The zest of 1 lemon
- 1 cup egg whites (from 7 or 8 eggs)
- a pinch of salt
- confectioners sugar for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center of the oven. Butter a 10 inch round spring form cake pan. Line it with a circle of parchment paper (you can use the cake pan to trace the circle). Butter the parchment paper too. This step is important.
- Put the egg whites in a clean, dry, large bowl and leave them sitting out at room temperature while you prep the other ingredients.
- Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake them for about 10 minutes or until they are nicely toasted. While they are toasting, make the browned butter.
- Heat the butter over a medium-low flame in a small heavy bottomed sauce pan. Keep your eye on it. Eventually, the butter will foam up and the solids will sink to the bottom and turn a golden brown colour. When this happens, strain the butter through a fine mesh sieve and set aside to cool. Do not put it in the fridge.
- Allow the toasted hazelnuts to cool a bit and then rub them between your hands to remove most of the skins. When the hazelnuts are totally cool, combine them with 3/4 cup sugar in a blender or food processor and pulse until they are finely ground.
- In a medium bowl, combine the ground hazelnut and sugar mixture with the buckwheat flour and lemon zest.
- Add a pinch of salt to the room temperature egg whites and whip them until they form soft peaks. Beat in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar in a slow steady stream. Continue beating, until the whites form soft peaks again.
- Starting with the hazelnut mixture, alternately fold in the dry ingredients and cooled brown butter in one-third at a time. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake the cake for 50 minutes or until it is golden brown and firm in the center.
- Allow the cake to cool a bit before turning it out of its pan, removing the paper and cooling it totally (right side up) on a rack.
- Just before serving, dust with confectioners sugar. This would be good with fresh fruit, but also works eaten out of a tupperware on the subway between your day job and your night job!
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