Baked in molds shaped like mini gold bars, financiers—with a sweet, crisp shell and chewy center—pack intense flavor into a small size, in part by relying on almond meal for moisture and browned butter for depth of flavor.
But the diminutive cakes—which got their name from an enterprising baker on the Rue St.-Denis near the financial center of Paris—can be fussy to make, including calling for special pans few of us own.
Looking to simplify—and add flavor—we started with technique. Traditional recipes call for first mixing the dry ingredients, then stirring in egg whites and brown butter until just combined. The batter then is refrigerated to firm up.
We found we could save time by reversing the order, first whipping our egg whites to soft—but not stiff—peaks. Slightly underwhipping the whites ensures their proteins remain elastic in the oven, yielding a more tender cake. Mixing the flours into the whipped whites produced a stiffer batter that no longer required chilling.
For flavorings, we considered modern interpretations, which often include flecks of fresh ginger or citrus zest. But we liked best the way the deep, nutty notes of the browned butter and fruity almond flour paired with the bold flavors found in Mexican hot chocolate, namely cocoa, smoky chipotle and cinnamon.
We also saw the browned butter as a way to deepen those flavors. So after browning the butter, we took the pan off the heat and added the cocoa powder, cinnamon and chipotle powder—as well as a splash of rum—allowing their flavors to bloom in the fat and residual heat of the butter.
One final fix: the pan. The traditional ingot-shaped molds were nonstarters. But a mini muffin pan worked perfectly, producing three-bite cakes that baked up in about 10 minutes. Removing the cakes from the pan after only 5 minutes of cooling prevented their exteriors from steaming and allowed the crusts to crisp. The result was a sophisticated, boldly spiced and surprisingly easy dessert.