Created in the late 1800s by a bakery near the Paris Bourse, the city’s financial hub, financiers were named and made for the wealthy bankers who frequented the shop. The cakes were rich with brown butter, shaped into a gold bar, and made small and crumbless for portability—perfect for a busy banker. Financiers are similar to madeleines but much more forgiving and versatile. They can be baked in mini-muffin tins. Once you learn this basic financier, play around with flavor combinations.
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon fine salt
1 cup blanched sliced almonds
1 cup powdered sugar
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1½ sticks), plus more for coating the pan
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, seeds scraped out, seeds and pod reserved
6 large egg whites
1. Sift flour and salt together through a fine-mesh strainer into a small bowl; set aside.
2. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment, process the almonds until finely ground, about 1 minute. Add sugar and pulse until well combined, about 10 (1-second) pulses. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside.
3. Melt butter in a medium frying pan over medium-low heat, swirling the pan occasionally until butter turns amber in color and smells nutty, about 15 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium heatproof bowl, add vanilla seeds and pod, and stir to break up any clumps of vanilla seeds.
4. Place egg whites in a medium bowl and whisk until frothy, about 30 seconds. Stir egg whites into reserved almond mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in reserved flour mixture until just combined (do not overmix).
5. Remove vanilla pod from butter and discard. Gently stir butter into flour mixture, a little at a time, until butter is absorbed and just evenly combined (do not overmix). Cover batter with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
6. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 450°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Generously coat a 24-well mini-muffin pan with butter and place on a baking sheet.
7. Fill each muffin well completely with batter and bake for 6 minutes. Reduce heat to 400°F and bake financiers until just beginning to brown around the edges, about 8 to 10 minutes more. Immediately unmold financiers and cool completely on a wire rack. Makes 24 mini-muffins. –Jill Santopietro for CHOW.com.