Poppy Seed Pluot Financiers {Gluten-Free}

As someone who loves making ice cream but detests anything vaguely meringue-like, I was thrilled the day I discovered financiers. I was in college, procrastinating art history homework by leafing through the Everyday Greens cookbook when I happened upon an Almond Brown Butter Cake with Plums. I’m pretty sure that cake was responsible not only for the B I got in said class, and also for contributing to my freshmen 15.

While I retained few of the dates and concepts that I learned while “studying” at UCSC (evidenced by a recent tour of the SF MOMA during which I walked from piece to piece declaring, “Now this piece was a big ‘F you’ to the art world!” over and over again), I never forgot the wonder of the financier, particularly its happy use of only egg whites, and lots of ’em. 

Since custard-based ice creams require the use of egg yolks, I am always left with a surplus of whites. I usually put them in a jar, saying to myself “this time I’ll definitely use them.” Then into the fridge they go only to be moved from shelf to shelf until, during a cleaning binge, I tip them down the drain, wracked with guilt upon remembering the ridiculously expensive pasture-raised eggs from whence they came. I wish I could say that this egg white angst curbs my ice cream making habit. But clearly this is not the case. So financiers regularly come to my rescue.

Financiers got their name from a bakery near the Paris stock exchange where the golden butter-filled cakes were baked in the shape of gold bricks. The batter contains no leavening, save for the egg whites, and they cook into tender little pastries made chewy from plenty of almond meal. What really makes financiers taste like magic fairy puffs is the high ratio of butter, browned with vanilla bean until it smells toasty and sweet.

My favorite financier recipe comes from The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle, a beautifully photographed baking book from pastry chef Kate Zuckerman that’s filled not only with scores of treats that use up extra egg whites, but also with baking science, killer recipes, and serious food porn. Her financier recipe is a little simpler than the one from Everyday Greens, less sweet and a bit more dense, which I like. I’ve tweaked this one many times and, though the ratios seem like they shouldn’t make a successful cake batter, they always turn out beautifully. This version was no exception in spite of my many bastardizations.

Financiers can be dressed up any which way: topped with seasonal fruit, flecked with chocolate, or made with different types of nuts, flours, or sweeteners. Since brown butter goes so famously with stone fruit, I topped these with slices of ripe red pluots from Woodleaf Farm by way of the Berkeley Farmer’s Market. Poppy seeds steeped in the brown butter add their elusive flavor along with a bit of pleasant crunch, and muscovado sugar and oat flour add even more warm richness.

Because of their high ratio of protein from egg whites and nuts, financiers are easy to make sans gluten, and their texture stays just as pillowy as their wheaten counterparts. With all that butter, health food they are not, but at least they’re small and deeply satisfying. I tried not to think about the tablespoon of butter that each cake contained as I devoured two, warm from the oven, fragrant with vanilla and dripping with gooey plum slices. I’d prefer my cake topped with baked plums than a slick of sugary frosting any day. (That just reminded me of another use for egg whites that I’m none too keen on: buttercream.)

Once the butter is browned and the eggs separated, the batter gets quickly blitzed in a food processor and divided among lined muffin pans. They are as easy to make as muffins, but more like a cake in flavor. I like them in the afternoon with a cup of tea, though they could just as easily be served warm, with a scoop of ice cream on the side (crème fraîche would be my first choice). In fact, ice cream would be a good choice if you needed something to do with those extra egg yolks.

As summer draws to a close, I hope you get to realize your homemade ice cream dreams and make the most of summer’s produce. (I know I feel a bit like a hamster on a wheel, trying to shove as much summer produce in my cheek pouches as I possibly can.)

Otherwise, I imagine these would be equally lovely topped with ripe pear slices, persimmons, or poached quince.

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Plum Love:
Plum Biercake
Nectarine, Plum and Almond Upside-Down Cake
Plum, Rhubarb and Raspberry Cardamom Crisp
Almond Plum Tart (+ Cardamom Ice Cream)

Fancier Financiers:
Berry-Fig Financiers
Chocolate Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake {Gluten-Free}
Buckwheat Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake + Cider-Glazed Apples

One year ago:
Rosemary Nectarine Upside-Down Cake {Gluten-Free}
Nectarine Crème Fraîche Pie

Poppy Seed Pluot Financiers {Gluten-Free}

Adapted generously from The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle

These little buttery cakes could really be topped with any fruit: berries, figs, nectarines, apricots, plums, peaches, cherries, pears, or poached quince, to name a bunch. Smallish pluots, sliced thinly, fit perfectly atop muffin-sized cakes, and they bake into jammy, glazed slices, their tartness offsetting the sweet cakes.

Steeping poppy seeds in the warm butter helps to draw out their mysterious, nutty flavor. They give the finished cakes a crunch that I find completely addictive. If you prefer, you can make this with almond flour in place of the sliced almonds (use the weight measurement for accuracy) and mix the batter by hand in a large bowl. If gluten isn’t an issue, you can replace the flours with 1/2 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour, taking care to agitate the batter minimally so as not to develop the glutens. If gluten is an issue, be sure to use certified gluten-free ingredients (particularly oat flour and sugars).

This batter uses 5 large egg whites. Whites keep for up to a week or two in the refrigerator, or they can be frozen for several months. If you’re starting with whole eggs, use the yolks in an ice cream or custard such as crème caramel or crème brulée. The financier batter can keep airtight and refrigerated for several days if you don’t wish to bake them all at once. The finished cakes are best the day of baking, but will keep for a day or two at room temperature, or longer refrigerated. Brush the plums with a bit of warm honey or plum jam if you wish to restore their sheen.

All ounce measurements are by weight.

Makes 12 small but rich cakes

1 1/2 sticks (.75 cup / 6 ounces / 170 grams) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
3 tablespoons (1 ounce / 30 grams) poppy seeds
3/4 cup (2.25 ounces / 65 grams) sliced almonds (or whole or slivered almonds)
1/2 cup (2 ounces / 60 grams) gluten-free oat flour
2 tablespoons (.5 ounces / 15 grams) sweet white rice flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces / 60 grams) powdered sugar
1/3 cup (2 ounces / 60 grams) unrefined cane sugar (such as Alter Eco’s muscobado), or coconut sugar, or light or dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup (6 ounces / 175 mL) egg whites (about 5 large)
6 medium pluots or plums, ripe but firm (1 pound / 450 grams)
1-2 tablespoons coarse turbinado or granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Line a standard muffin pan with paper liners (alternatively, grease the pans with softened butter and dust with oat flour, tapping out the extra.)

Melt the butter with the vanilla pod and scrapings in a medium saucepan over a medium flame. Continue cooking until the butter turns golden and smells nutty, 5-10 minutes, swirling occasionally.

Meanwhile, place the poppy seeds in a heatproof measuring cup. When the butter has browned, pour it into the cup with the poppy seeds. This will stop the cooking and enhance the flavor of the seeds. Set aside to cool at least 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod (you can rinse it, let it dry, and use it to make vanilla extract).

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor combine the almonds, oat flour, rice flour, powdered sugar, muscobado sugar, and salt. Process until the almonds are finely ground. Blend in the egg whites until combined. With the motor running, pour in the cooled brown butter, leaving the poppy seeds in the bottom. (This helps the butter emulsify into the batter.) Turn off the motor, and stir in the poppy seeds and any remaining butter with a flexible spatula. (It helps to remove the blade.) The batter will be quite fluid. Divide the batter among the lined muffin cups; it will come about halfway up the sides.

Halve the plums and remove the pits. Place a half cut-side down, and cut with a sharp, serrated knife into 1/4″ thick slices, discarding the two end pieces. Repeat with the other plums. Fan four or so slices atop each financier, and sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar.

Bake the financiers until they are puffed, golden on top, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool until warm; the cakes are still cooking from residual heat.

Serve the financiers warm or at room temperature.

44 thoughts on “Poppy Seed Pluot Financiers {Gluten-Free}”

  1. You photographs are always stunning but these really blew me away. I love that rich purple-pink of the pluot (fruit always > buttercream in my book too) and the scattering of the poppy seeds for that little extra something. Just perfect.

  2. I was on board with the plums, but when you said quince, persimmon, oh my! I rarely make custard ice cream (lazy–and a Jeni's acolyte), but I do have a favorite use for egg whites, albeit not as delicious as financiers. I love an egg white omelet sprinkled with green herbs. Now off to plan my plum strategy for the weekend.

  3. I'm a huge lover of anything to do with custards – ice creams, pastry cream, creme anglaise, mousses, even a buttercream recipe that uses only egg yolks (it's unreal), so I'm also left with tons of egg whites. I usually put them into a container, label it with the date, and freeze it. When I know I want to bake with the whites, I let them thaw in the fridge overnight. Bam – egg whites when you need 'em!

    These photos are gorgeous, by the way! And those plums – so vibrant! I, like every other person, am sad to see the summer produce coming to an end. I love the coziness of winter, but the fresh berries and stone fruits and everything else is just so good.

    1. Freezing the whites is a really good idea – thank you for the tip! I'm trying to squeeze the most out of the summer produce, but am eager for that cozy fall weather, too.

  4. They look magical, seriously, like from a parallel universe where the light is always soft and dreamy and financiers are good for you! Such gorgeous photos and your action shots are killing me! So fun! I feel like I am watching you cook. :-)

    1. That is the sweetest comment ever – thank you for the incredibly kind words, Julia! The light is the nicest in my space a couple hours before sunset, so I usually have to wait around all day, then shoot shoot shoot until I lose the light altogether!

  5. What a lovely bite size dessert, Alanna :) Though I love buttercream, this version has me drooled all over my computer screen as well. Your photos are gorgeous as always, and those drizzle shots are always my favourite :)

    1. Oh yum, my grandpa used to buy me mandelbread when I was little. I will have to find a recipe that uses only the whites. Do you happen to have one you would want to share? Thanks for the tip!

  6. Omg what. I—fellow obsessive ice cream maker, meringue hater (not across the board, but every version I've ever attempted has been terrible-ish), and "I'll totally stick these in the fridge and find something to do with them" egg white waster—was unaware that financiers were made with just egg whites. I'm not even sure that I've HAD a financier before. (They had some at my favorite bakeshop the other day and I almost bought one…. #regrets.) This is very upsetting to me considering that they sound like a dream dessert (butter + egg whites + almond meal = ♥) that has been absent from my life. At least until now!

    Side note: have you ever heard of merveilleux? I bought DL's My Paris Kitchen recently on a whim and wound up reading it cover-to-cover the day I got it, and it's my current cook-all-the-things cookbook obsession. Anyway, he has a recipe in there for merveilleux that he introduces with, "If you think you don't like meringues, you haven't tried a merveilluex." They're basically two little meringues sandwiched around thick whipped cream + creme fraiche frosting, encased in more of said frosting, then rolled in shaved chocolate. (http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2011/05/aux-merveilleux-de-fred/) The thought of that was enough to make me consider giving meringues one more try (especially since I've never seen anything remotely like that around here).

    1. Carey! I'm thrilled to be the one to introduce you to these buttery little dream cakes. You will plotz when you try one – they are so simple and crazy good and genius. Love those French!

      As a matter of fact, DL's book is currently propping up my laptop! I got a copy when Jay and I went to a dinner and booksigning with him and four courses from the book. (We got to eat the cover recipe! And the salted caramel chocolate mousse! It was awesome!) I haven't spent enough time with it yet, though I'm in the midst of re-reading The Sweet Life in Paris. However, I am SO making merveilleux with the next batch of egg whites that should plague me! Those sound ridiculous.

  7. I've never heard of financiers before, so thank you for introduction! Dying to try them.

    And I totally don't understand how one can hate meringue? I just love them, I make ice cream just to have an excuse to have extra egg whites to whip up Pavlova, meringue cookies, you name it! No judging here though, it amazes me how different our taste buds are. :)

  8. I'm inviting myself over for brunch to eat these. That person throwing rocks at your window on Sunday morning is me. I'll eat no less than one dozen of these beauties.

    (PS. Perhaps I'm commenting in my sleep, but I swear I already commented…)

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