When my train rolls into the small town of Saint-Dié, in the Eastern Vosges region of France, my eyes automatically drift to the mountaintops.
Cue Sound of Music-type background tune. Wait, maybe not--it depends on the weather.
See, the Vosges region is generally one of the most beautiful regions out there. During the winter, it gets covered in snow and the pines glisten under the sunlight. When summertime rolls around and it gets warm, the mountains seem to be part of a lansdcape painting. These are the times when you could easily hear birds chirping and music from Heidi spring forth behind you. And then, there are the rainy days. On those days, when my train arrives at the station, I look at the mountains and think: "Gah. Not again. Cold and dreary...but cold and dreary means hot chocolate and viennoiseries! Sounds good!"
Last weekend was a perfect sun-filled "don't you wish you could stay here all year long" weekend, at least until Sunday noon rolled around--but that is beside the point. Saturday was a day Vosges-vacation dreams are made of: hiking in the mountains, picnicking by the lake, and picking wild myrtilles, or tiny forest blueberries.
(If my aunt Mimi were to read this, she would remind me yet again that I shouldn't pick those because you never know what came near it. I'm ready to take that risk.)
And because a perfect weekend is never really perfect without baking a little, there was a large family lunch planned for Sunday noon, before I returned to Paris. This was the perfect occasion to try a recipe from a new cookbook my Maman brought back to Paris, Ladurée's Sucré. Although the pastry 'maison' may be known for its macarons or rose-flavored pastries, I decided to try out a classic: the financier.
You may remember my post about Visitandine: well, the financier is its non-identical twin. They share pretty much everything except their shape, and the fact that butter is not simply melted for a financier, but browned. Browning the butter releases a great aroma--you'll know you've gone too far when that aroma starts being anything less than great.
I wasn't pleased with the tops of my financiers, which weren't smooth enough in my opinion. A generous coating of melted white chocolate was just what I needed to feel better about them. As it turns out, the taste was what could be expected from a Ladurée recipe--amazing. The financiers were fluffy, moist, and filled with a rich almond flavor. The white chocolate added a little something, although they really would have been great on their own.
And here's a bonus: see those flowers on the close-up shot of the financiers? They are called capucines, and make a delightful snack, reminiscent of peppery mint. Visions of eating flowers all day long, sitting on a lounge chair, quickly surfaced. So did my train ticket, and I was off to Paris--with a large tote full of fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the garden.
The hills are alive with the sound of music...
adapted from Ladurée's Sucré
makes 15 large to 30 small, depending on pan size
95 grams / 6.5 TB unsalted butter
65 grams / 3/4 c. ground almonds
195 grams / 1.5 cups confectioner's sugar
70 grams / 1/2 c. + 3 TB all-purpose flour
2 pinches baking powder ( approximately 1 1/2 TS)
6 egg whites
1 TS vanilla extract
White chocolate, melted (optional)
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat until lightly browned--make sure it does not burn. Remove from heat and place directly in a shallow baking dish filled with cold water to stop any browning of the butter. Let cool.
In a large bowl, mix sugar, flour, and almond flour together. Add vanilla extract, baking powder, and stir to combine. Add egg whites one by one and gently whisk together. Finally, add cooled butter and stir until you obtain a uniform batter.
Refrigerate at least 12 hours or overnight.
When you are ready to bake the financiers, preheat oven to 410°F / 210°C. Pour batter into buttered and floured financier pan, 3/4 full. If you don't have a financier pan, don't fret--a muffin pan will do the job, though in this case you may want to fill it only halfway.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until golden. Invert onto a rack to cool.
Once cooled, you may dip the financiers into melted white chocolate to coat. Place on a cooling rack and let dry.