After a prolonged absence from Proof of the Pudding, I am back (one year from the day I started this thing!) and ready to blog. Why the prolonged absence?
Well, first there was the wedding. Now, I’m not one of those ladies who has been planning her wedding since she was 7. In fact, I kind of thought I might never have one. But even the most low key of brides finds herself inundated with “To Dos” in the month leading up to the big day. And thus…any time to blog essentially evaporated. (For the record: Happiest night of my life so far. So, so wonderful.)
Then, the Friday after the wedding, my grandfather passed away. He was an honorable, passionate and loving man with an insatiable appetite for knowledge and an endless supply of compassion and love. His death didn’t come as a surprise; he was 95 and suffered from Alzheimer’s, and he had been ill for quite some time. But loss is never easy, regardless of whether or not you have time to prepare for it. We all miss him tremendously.
And then there’s the fact that I work in business and financial news. In Washington. Which means my work life has been capital “C” crazy lately. Nothing like an economic meltdown to add some spice to the workplace.
But I couldn’t let the one year anniversary of my blog go unnoticed. This blog has been such a wonderful outlet for me, and through it I’ve “met” so many interesting fellow foodies and learned from their food adventures. Over the next few months, this blog will be taking a bit of a different turn. I’ll still post recipes and stories of my kitchen trials and tribulations, but I want to broaden it out to cover broader food issues as well. I promise not to bore you — that is if I haven’t lost you already!
But before said shift takes place, here’s another recipe to add to your collection. It’s yet another recipe adapted from Kate Zuckerman’s The Sweet Life, one of my favorite dessert cookbooks, and boy is it a winner. Brown butter, vanilla bean and almond? Swooooon!
Thank you all for your comments, links and feedback over the past year. You’ve made writing this blog so much fun, and I can’t wait to see how the site develops over the next few months!
Vanilla, Brown Butter and Almond Financiers
Adapted from Kate Zuckerman’s The Sweet Life
Zuckerman is totally the entertainer’s pastry chef. You can make this batter up to four days in advance and refrigerate it, meaning you can just scrape the batter into the pan (or pans) before your guests arrive and have a warm, delicious dessert in no time. The original recipe calls for baking the cake in a 10-inch round pan for 50 minutes, but I chose her variation to bake the cake as financiers with a berry pressed in the center. You can use mini-muffin pans (which I did for most of them) or special petit four tart molds, as pictured above. Either way, they’re delicious.
1 cup whole blanched almonds
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 vanilla bean
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
7 egg whites
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a mini-muffin tin, or approximately 30 petit four tart pans.
In a food processor, grind the almonds and 1 tablespoon of the flour to a fine powder. Set aside.
Split the vanilla bean down the middle and scrape the seeds into a medium saucepan. Add the pod and the butter and melt the butter over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until the mixture caramelizes and emits a rich, nutty vanilla aroma. Remove the butter from the heat, take out the vanilla bean, dry it and save it for another use.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg whites and the sugar. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk the mixture until the egg whites become warm to the touch and the granulated sugar has dissolved. Remove the bowl from the heat.
Slowing whisk the remaining 1/2 cup flour, ground almonds and salt into the egg whites. Whisk until smooth.
Using a ladle, add approximately 1/4 cup of the vanilla brown butter to the egg mixture and whisk util incorporated. Repeat this process until you have added all the butter. (This process is very important — if you add the butter too quickly, the mixture will not emulsify and the butter will melt out of the cake when baked.) At this point, the batter can be bake right away or refrigerated for up to 4 days.
Pour the batter into the prepared molds or tins, filling them only halfway. Press a raspberry into the center of each financier. Bake until deeply golden and slightly springy, about 25 minutes.
Yield: ~30 financiers (depending on the size of your molds)