Category Archives: Cookies, biscuits

Financiers (French Almond and Butter Mini Cakes)

This was one of earliest recipes on my blog. Some time in 2011. It seems an eternity…. The photograph screamed for an update, so when I made another batch last week, I took new photographs and thought I’d write about the financiers once more. I took this decision also because I have recently read on a blog that financiers were time-consuming and nothing really special in taste. I found this really surprising and wondered if fussy difficult recipes were circulating among food bloggers…. I didn’t look into the details of this blogger’s recipe but mine, coming from a more than reliable French source (Leçons de cuisine de l’école Ritz-Escoffier ), is all but difficult to the point where I knew it by heart after maybe only three baking sessions! Actually, it takes about fifteen minutes to prepare the batter (no electric mixer, no kneading, no rolling), there are only five ingredients  and it takes only 15-20 minutes to bake. As for the “nothing really special”, it’s of course a question of personal taste, but even though I crave sweets very rarely these days, I find financiers quite exceptional: they might look like ordinary little sponge cakes, but they are much more sophisticated. They contain hardly any flour, but lots of powdered almonds instead, a generous amount of browned “hazelnut” butter, egg whites… they are incredibly light and literally melt in one’s mouth. I hope I have convinced you to try them at least once!

Contrary to what most people think, at the beginning financiers didn’t have a gold ingot shape, but they had an oval form. Produced since the Middle Ages by the French nuns of the Visitation of Mary, they were not called financiers and had an oval form. Then, for a certain time they were forgotten and around 1890, Lasne, a Parisian confectioner, revived the recipe. Since his shop was close to the stock market and financiers were his regular clients, he named the cakes “financiers” and transformed their form into the one recalling a gold ingot, probably thinking they appealed more to his clients. I find the muffin shape cuter than the lingot, so I always prepare financiers in muffin forms.

TIPS/WARNING: Do not even try to use a different flour (for example wholemeal) or sugar replacement (and never brown sugar!) or skipping the butter…. It will result in vaguely almond-tasting muffins. I have made financiers at least 50 times in recent years (my husband is a big fan and they are quick to make…) and I was once faced with a shortage of each of these: white sugar or white flour or butter. Every time the result was awful. The only thing this recipe stands well is cutting down on sugar’s amount and this is what I’ve been doing since the beginning because we don’t like too much sugar.

I have posted also a financiers with raspberry recipe here. I think raspberries taste wodnerful with almonds, but I guess you can add any fresh fruits you like (but not too many, otherwise the cakes might get soggy!).

Some pastry chefs make pistachio financiers, but I’ve never tried this variation, so I’m not sure if one adds the same amount of powdered pistachio…

If you don’t find powdered almonds (or they are very expensive), buy ground white (peeled) almonds and sift them through a sieve. This is what I always do (then you can use the remaining ground bigger bits of almonds in other less delicate sweets).

BEWARE! You might be convinced (I was too!) that something labelled as “almond flour” would be perfect here… I have recently noticed online products labelled in English as “almond flour” are in reality ground almonds… For this recipe you must use almonds powdered to a point where they resemble almost wheat flour, so if you realise you have coarser product (which frankly should be labelled as almond meal or simply ground almonds), sieve it.

Click here for some ideas of using the remaining egg yolks.

Preparation: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients (6 muffin shaped financiers or 12 mini-muffin shaped):

50 g powdered almonds (not ground but powdered; see the TIP & “BEWARE” above)

70 g caster sugar (I sometimes add 60 g sugar only, but it depends on your sweetness level preferences)

50 g butter

2 egg whites

1 heaped tablespoon white wheat flour

a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Prepare the “beurre noisette” (lit. hazelnut butter): heat the butter in a pan on a low heat and observe the milk solids, which will separate at the bottom. When they become light brown (hazelnut colour), put the pan aside.

In the meantime combine the egg whites, the sugar, the almond powder, the pinch of salt and the flour in a big bowl. Add gradually the butter, mixing with a spoon (no need to use a mixer or a food processor!).

Pour the mixture into greased – with butter – muffin forms (or other small cakes forms) 2/3 of their height.

Bake for about 15 – 20 minutes until light to medium golden.

Let them cool down before taking out of the forms.

 

ANZAC Biscuits with Dried Blueberries

anzac_bluepFirst of all, I I would like to apologise my dear visitors and blogging friends for such a long absence due to wonderful holidays I have spent once more in Japan. As always, the stay in Tokyo was highly inspiring, filled with unforgettable culinary moments and I hope I’ll be able to share with you some of my discoveries in future posts. The only thing I strongly regretted about my trip was having naively hoped once more the plane food would be at least edible. Leaving more than half of the meals intact I kept on dreaming how happy I would have been if I had an onigiri, a simple sandwich or some ANZAC biscuits in my bag… Next time I take a long flight these treats will definitely travel with me!

If you have never heard about these biscuits, ANZAC stands for “Australian and New Zealand Army Corps”, created during the World War I. The biscuits bearing this name were created at the same time by women desperate to send nutritious home-made food to their husbands, sons and boyfriends. This is apparently how the eggless, nutritious recipe ensuring long preservation was born. I first prepared ANZAC biscuits thanks to Mr. Three-Cookies and will always be grateful for this amazing discovery.

ANZAC biscuits might not look very attractive, but with their buttery aroma, slight chewiness and nutty flavours for me they are no more no less but the best thing in the world of crunchy sweet treats. They are also easy and quick to prepare, so I make them quite regularly.  The basic recipe is flexible and every version I have made proved delicious. Apart from the basic recipe, until now I have only posted a dried cranberry version, which I love particularly because of its tanginess and an even higher degree of chewiness.

One day I was given a big bag of luscious dried blueberries and, afraid of spoiling them in baked dishes, I kept on treating them as exceptional snacks. The friend who has kindly offered these blueberries has lived for many years in Australia, so somehow adding them to ANZAC biscuits seemed suddenly obvious. The result was absolutely luscious and much superior to the addition of boring raisins I have tested once.

TIPS: Unless you have a health problem, do not use margarine or any other vegetable shortening. The butter taste and  aroma is so strong, you will lose a big part of the pleasure.

As I have mentioned above, they keep fresh in a tightly closed container for several days (and maybe even more, but I wasn’t able to test more than five days). The biscuits stay crunchy and slightly chewy.

WARNING: do not taste the raw dough! You will end up eating it straight from the pan while you wait for your previous batch to bake.

Preparation: 1 hour (or 30 minutes if you manage to bake everything in one batch)

Ingredients (I have obtained about 35 biscuits, you will obtain a bit less if you skip blueberries):

70 grams/1 cup rolled oats

90 grams/1 cup desiccated coconut

120 g/1 cup flour

125 g/about 4,5 oz butter

160 g/3/4 cup brown cane sugar

1 tablespoon dark syrup (I used 2 tablespoons molasses)

1 teaspoon baking soda (bi-carbonate of soda, in countries where it is not widely available, for example in France, it can be easily bought in pharmacies)

2 tablespoons boiling water

pinch of salt

6 heaped tablespoons dried blueberries

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Melt the butter and syrup or molasses in a big pan.

Combine the flour, the oats, the coconut, the blueberries, the salt and the sugar. Add slowly to the melted butter.

At the end combine the boiling water and soda. Pour the mixture into the dough and stir well with a spoon.

Don’t worry if the dough seems crumbly. It is normal. Just squeeze well the dough when forming balls in your hands and don’t flatten them too much.

Roll small balls, making them as tight as possible (I usually make walnut-sized balls, but this time I wanted smaller biscuits, so I made the balls 1/3 smaller) and put them on a baking sheet (leaving at least 3 cm spaces between each ball since they will spread).

Flatten them slightly (they will flatten even more during the baking process) and bake 10-15 minutes or until golden.

Keep them in a tightly closed container. Apparently they keep for ages. All I know is they keep for at least five days, well closed.

Palets bretons (Sweet and Salty Brittany Cookies)

paletspp

This was one of the first recipes I have posted. I hardly had any visitors at the time, so I have decided to dig it up and write about these French biscuits (or cookies). They may look ordinary, but their delicate crumbly texture, buttery taste and a delicate touch of saltiness make them very special.

“Palet” (pronounced without the final “t”) means a “puck” , and “jeu de palets” is a Brittany regional game with pucks which shape is similar to those used in hockey. Brittany is famous for its rich in butter sweets – usually made with salted butter – and one of those is a crumbly cookie, called “palet” in reference to its puck shape. They have a buttery taste, are slightly salty and sweet at the same time, very crumbly and melt in your mouth too quickly… Palets bretons are quite popular all around the  country and can be found in every supermarket, but they are easy to prepare and obviously taste better baked at home.

Together with Crème brûlée palets are a good way to use up egg yolks (if you have made Coconut Cookies for example…or another dish calling for whites uniquely).

There are French internet recipes galore for these cookies. The one I tried for the first time and have always made with success comes the French blog Miamm…Maman Cuisine, where I also found the trick to keep their shape (see below).

TIPS: Click here to see a few ideas of how to use up the leftover egg whites.

You can sprinkle the cookies with coarse salt for an extra crunch and extra saltiness, but I don’t advise it for the first batch you prepare (you can test on one or two biscuits first).

Special equipment: muffins or similar size forms

Preparation: almost two hours (including 1 hour in the fridge)

Calories (the whole batch): about 1700 kcal

Ingredients for 12-15 pucks:

80g (about 3 oz) salted butter (or unsalted butter+1/2 teaspoon salt, but salty butter is better)

80 g (about 3 oz) confectioner’s sugar

140g (about 5 oz) flour

1/3 small package of baking powder (1 1/2 heaped teaspoon) 

2 yolks

(coarse good quality sea salt)

Mix the yolks and the sugar well in a food processor. Add the softened butter, mix again.

Add the flour and the baking powder.

Knead it for 5 minutes.

Form a thick sausage (diameter=the bottom of one whole in a muffin form), wrap it in plastic film and put into the fridge for 1 hour (or more, until the dough becomes hard enough to be easily sliced).

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Take the dough out of the fridge, unwrap it, cut into 1 cm (about 0,4 in) thick slices.

Put them inside the muffin forms (this way they’ll be more or less of equal size and will only rise instead of spreading around).

If you don’t have muffin forms or other cookie forms, simply put the cut cookies on a baking sheet, but at your own responsibility: they’ll probably spread around and become flatter than the ones “imprisoned” in a mould.

(You can sprinkle them with coarse salt for an extra salty crunch.)

Bake for 15-20 minutes till golden.

ANZAC Biscuits with Dried Cranberry

anzac_cranp

Have you ever heard of ANZAC biscuits? Many of you might be put off by the above unequally shaped, unattractive cookies, but in reality these are one of the most delicious and addictive sweet snacks I know. Until now I have been preparing only their standard version and I wish I had thought of cranberries earlier because I liked them this way even more.

ANZAC stands for “Australian and New Zealand Army Corps”, created during the World War I and these biscuits were created at the same time by women desperate to send nutritious home-made food to their husbands, sons and boyfriends. According to this website, faced with at least two months’ transportation time, a group of women worked out a recipe based on rather healthy Scottish rolled oats biscuits and added only those ingredients which ensured long preservation. There are several theories on why eggs are not used, but their absence certainly makes biscuits last longer.

The first time I baked these biscuits (see the recipe here), I was inspired and encouraged by Mr. Three-Cookies, the cookie and biscuit specialist from Three-Cookies blog, where I found the recipe (actually at Easily Good Eats by the same author). Before tasting ANZAC biscuits for the first time I expected ordinary, but good crunchy biscuits, with a healthy twist, i.e. oats. What I obtained was well beyond my hopes: slightly crunchy, slightly chewy, addictive sweet snacks with a very pleasant  buttery taste, enhanced by baked nutty oats. In short, the mixture of such simple ingredients has created a complex, surprising result I am still fond of, after dozens of batches.

ANZAC biscuits have always been so satisfactory, I haven’t even bothered to modify the basic recipe. However, a couple of days ago, the beautiful Cranberry Coconut Quinoa Loaves posted by Kelly (from Inspired Edibles) convinced me that dried cranberries are a perfect pairing for coconut and this is how I had the idea to tweak my usual recipe. The experiment was a big success, at least for a big fan of chewy cookies like me (the cranberries’ presence has at least tripled the chewiness!). The flat rounded, more or less equal shape was more difficult to obtain with dried fruit inside, but then I’m not a very meticulous cook… Thank you so much, Kelly for such a wonderful inspiration; cranberries and coconut are an excellent pairing, definitely worth further explorations. Thank you again, Mr. Three-Cookies, for making me discover the world of ANZAC biscuits.

If you don’t like or have cranberries, I strongly advise testing the classic recipe first (or simply follow the below recipe eliminating cranberries):

anzac_p

If you are fond of coconut sweets, you might like these too:

kokos_pj

Easiest Chewy Coconut Cookies (aka Macaroons)

bountytrufflespj

Coconut, Chocolate and Rum Truffles

cocochococakepj

Moist Chocolate and Coconut Cake

cococakep

or the above Moist Coconut Cake but without chocolate

coffeecoconutcreamp

Coffee and Coconut Cream with Agar

chocococo2p

Light Chocolate and Coconut Cream (also with agar)

matchacoconutp

or Matcha and Coconut Cream with Agar

If you want to play with the basic ANZAC recipe, Mr. Three-Cookies has frequently (and successfully) experimented with these amazing biscuits, so check his Three Cookies blog for inspiration.

TIPS: Unless you have a health problem, do not use margarine or any other vegetable shortening. The butter taste and  aroma is so strong, you will lose a big part of the pleasure.

As I have mentioned above, they keep fresh in a tightly closed container for several days (and maybe even more, but I wasn’t able to test more than five days). The biscuits stay crunchy and slightly chewy.

Do not expect vivid red spots on your biscuits: the cranberries will darken during the baking process (the ones you see above are just meant to add a touch of colour to the dark biscuits.)

WARNING: do not taste the raw dough! You will end up eating it straight from the pan while you wait for your previous batch to bake.

Preparation: 1 hour (or 30 minutes if you manage to bake everything in one batch)

Ingredients (I have obtained about 35 biscuits, you will obtain a bit less if you skip cranberries):

70 grams/1 cup rolled oats

90 grams/1 cup desiccated coconut

120 g/1 cup flour

125 g/about 4,5 oz butter

160 g/3/4 cup brown cane sugar

1 tablespoon dark syrup (I used 2 tablespoons molasses)

1 teaspoon baking soda (bi-carbonate of soda, in countries where it is not widely available, for example in France, it can be easily bought in pharmacies)

2 tablespoons boiling water

pinch of salt

6 heaped tablespoons dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Melt the butter and syrup or molasses in a big pan.

Combine the flour, the oats, the coconut, the cranberries, the salt and the sugar. Add slowly to the melted butter.

At the end combine the boiling water and soda. Pour the mixture into the dough and stir well with a spoon.

Roll small balls (I usually make walnut-sized balls, but this time I wanted smaller biscuits, so I made the balls 1/3 smaller) and put them on a baking sheet (leaving at least 3 cm spaces between each ball since they will spread).

Flatten them slightly (they will flatten even more during the baking process) and bake 10-15 minutes or until golden.

Don’t worry if the dough seems crumbly. It is normal. Just squeeze well the dough when forming balls in your hands and don’t flatten them too much.

Keep them in a tightly closed container. Apparently they keep for ages. All I know is they keep for at least five days, well closed.

Easiest Chewy Coconut Cookies (Macaroons)

kokos_pj

If sometimes you don’t feel like spending hours in the kitchen, but are in urgent need of easy sweet snacks, you might be interested in these cookies. I believe they are similar to what is called “coconut macaroons” in the USA, but they are much simpler and quicker to prepare. They require maximum ten minutes of work before being baked, you don’t need any kitchen appliances and, last but not least, they call for only three ingredients, which most of you probably always have in the house (sugar, egg whites and desiccated coconut). This, accidentally, makes them gluten free, if I’m not mistaken. As you will see below, you don’t even need any measuring cups or scales: a tablespoon is all you need. Oh, and I would have forgotten: these cookies are the first thing that comes to my mind when I have leftover egg whites.

I posted them a very very long time ago, but I prepare them so often, I couldn’t resist this quick reminder. I have been making them in the same way for many years and this ridiculously simple recipe is the result of my attempts to copy chewy coconut cookies I used to love as a child. I have however a warning to all those who prefer less sugar in desserts:  these cookies are sweeter than most of the desserts I post here! For once I don’t mind it because this sticky, chewy texture I go crazy for couldn’t be achieved with less sugar. I sometimes bake them in mini-muffin moulds, but most of the time I don’t bother and form “pucks” with moist hands and then bake them directly on baking paper.

If you don’t like coconut, you might find these biscuits interesting:

hazelnutcookiespp

Easy Chewy Hazelnut Cookies

TIPS :  Click here to see a few ideas of how to use up leftover egg yolks if you are left with some (I strongly recommend crème brûlée, maybe even with matcha…)

Since the coconut and sugar dryness vary (not to mention the egg whites size), the given quantities can be only treated as approximate. Check the consistency: you should be able to form balls from the dough, but it should remain very sticky and moist.

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (about 15 cookies):

2 egg whites
7 flat tablespoons caster sugar
12 well-heaped tablespoons desiccated coconut

Preheat the oven at 170°C.

Take a bowl, mix everything with a spoon, adding gradually sugar and coconut. Since the coconut and sugar dryness vary (not to mention the egg whites size), the given quantities can be only treated as approximate. Check the consistency: you should be able to form balls from the dough, but it should remain very sticky and moist.

Form small balls (medium apricot size) with moist hands, put on baking paper or greased baking tray and squash slightly.

You can also use mini-muffin moulds (any moulds you have and like will do).

Bake the biscuits until slightly golden (about 20 minutes in my oven).

They keep for several days if covered with plastic film.