Coconut Financier-Madeleines: A Tale of Two Teacakes



I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that the first madeleine I ever tasted was purchased from a display next to the register at Starbucks. It was an impulse buy; an afterthought selected only because I didn't have cash and felt bad charging just two dollars for a cup of tea.

"And these too," I said, grabbing a package and waving them at the barrista.

I was with my best friends Matt and Vanessa that night. We had been walking home from a movie and stopped in to escape the bitter winter cold. Crowded around one of those little round tables decorated with pseudo-poetry and pictures of mermaids, we talked about the film while I nonchalantly ripped into the package and took a bite.

My reaction was immediate. No sooner had the cake touched my tongue, than (like Proust before me) "a shudder ran through my whole body."

"These are amazing!" I exclaimed. "Oh my God. This is the most delicious thing I've ever tasted! They must be new!" I held the little cakes up to my face, examining the buttery nooks and gently squeezing the perfect little mound on top.

Matt, no stranger to a pastry himself, gave me a bit of a bored look.
"They're Starbucks madeleines, Alejandra. They sell them in every single Starbucks across the country, quite possibly the world."

"Well, I've never seen them before," I replied, and promptly went to purchase a second package to take home with me for further evaluation.

That night, I Googled madeleines and discovered things that as an English major I should have probably already known. The next day I went to the bookstore and bought a book on French baking and the first volume of In Search of Lost Time. The subsequent weeks were spent reading Proust, skipping class, and baking dozens of batches of madeleines. I've since worked out my own recipes for both traditional and flavored madeleines, but I admit that I still can't pass up those tasty prepackaged Starbucks ones. I can't pinpoint why, but they make me feel good; perhaps a case of involuntary memory?

The second teacake entered my world by way of an entirely different sense: sight. For weeks, I lusted after the petite little golden cakes in the display window of the patisserie near my old office. They were tiny, oval-shaped treats with just a dot of chocolate in the center and a funny little name (the financier). A devoted fan of the pistachio macarons at this same cafe, I had to make a choice and the macarons always won. It was a couple months before I decided to finally indulge my curiosity. I bought two, and could barely wait to get back to the office before tasting it.

I should have waited.

I'd never been so disappointed in something that looked so good. I'd expected almonds, a nutty butter flavor, and a light spongy texture. What I got was bland, oily, and oddly crumbly. This financier could not have been further from my fantasies. I could not shake the idea, however, that something was wrong and made note to look into it further.

Fast-forward one year. My recent culinary acquisition, my Cuisinart ice cream maker, has made for some fantastic experimentation, but has left me with one problem: extra egg whites. Searching online for answers besides the obvious (egg white omelets, angel food, meringue), I discovered a recipe for financier. The ingredients were fairly straightforward; in addition to the whites, the recipe called for ground almonds, beurre noisette (melted and slightly browned butter), confectioner's sugar, and just a hint of flour. It was the perfect solution to my delicious problem.

Not one to stick to the rules, I decided to swap the almonds (which I don't have) for dessicated coconut flour (which I do). Financier are traditionally baked in special molds, which are rectangular in shape (thus explaining the name: the traditional financier looks like a bar of gold, hence "banker's cake"). I don't own these (yet), so I decided to use my madeleine pan. I'm sure they would work perfectly in muffin tins, as well.

A few helpful tips:
  • Make sure to use the melted butter/freezer method of buttering the pan, as opposed to simply spraying or spraying and flouring the pan. The solidified butter helps the cakes pop out easily and imparts a lovely golden crust.

  • Immediately after taking the tray out of the oven, use a butter knife to push any little crust that has risen over the edge away from the pan and towards the cake. As they will still be a little soft, the crust will become part of the cake and not harden onto the tray. You should notice the madeleines loosening in the shell when you do this.
  • Resist the temptation to remove from the pan right away, but if you do, place on a tray shell-side down. The top part is still very sticky at this point and will stick to whatever plate/tray (even each other) it touches. Once cool, you can arrange them with the pretty shells above for presentation purposes.

  • Dip them! These little teacakes were made for dipping. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate--it soaks them up and they seem to melt in your mouth.




Coconut Financier-Madeleines
These are best eaten freshly baked, but can be brought back to life with a quick zap in the microwave. Please note that the baking time will have to be adjusted depending on the size and depth of the mold that you use. In patisseries, financier are traditionally sold with a dot of fruit,chocolate, or an almond tucked in the center. Mine are plain so as to not compete with the fluted pan, but feel free to decorate as you'd like!

Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for buttering
2 madeleine or financier trays
1 cup unsweetened coconut flour
1 2/3 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon almond extract
6 large egg whites
3/4 cup beurre noisette or regular unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

1. With a pastry brush, use the 2 tablespoons of melted butter to thoroughly butter the madeleine pan then place in the freezer to solidify the butter.

2. In a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, sugar, flour, and salt. Mix a few times to combine thoroughtly. Add the egg whites and mix until completely blended--this part will take a bit of elbow grease as the egg whites have a tendency to slip around all over the place.

3. Add the extract and the 3/4 cup butter, and mix until completely blended. No butter should be visible on the sides. (Note that the batter will be pretty thin.)

4. Spoon the batter into the madeleine shells about 3/4 of the way up, leaving just a tiny bit to rise. Place the filled pan in the center of the oven. Bake until the financier just being to rise, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400°F. Bake until the financier are a light, golden brown and begin to firm up, about another 5 minutes.

5. Turn off the oven heat and let the financier rest in the oven until firm, about another 5 to 7 minutes.

6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the financier cool in the molds for 10 minutes. Unmold.

The financier may be stored in an airtight container for several days, but really do taste much better right away (even if they're still a little bit warm!)

21 comments:

  1. I'm guessing that you have a non-stick madeleine pan because yours looks so perfect! I have a regular tin type, and I did spray the HECK out of it when I used it (once). My efforts to scrape out the poor things was an experience never to be repeated again.

    I do, however, have ground almonds in the freezer!

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  2. Hi Rowena,

    I actually just have a regular aluminum pan, but I make sure to brush evenly with melted butter then pop in the freezer to solidify. It gives the cakes a beautiful golden crust and they pop out easily. I added a few more tips to the recipe regarding this.

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  3. I just found your blog. It's beautiful and I love your writing.

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  4. i love a good mission! obviously you do too. i made some madeleines for the first time this past december. i loved them.

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  5. alejandra,
    love your blog...your financier-madeleines are yummy looking!

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  6. Those look beautiful! And, earlier condescension aside, those Starbuck's madeleines are indeed delicious. Just so spongy and flavorful... ahhh.

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  7. Thank you for the kind words Keith! I'm so happy to have so many new readers.

    Fret, you are absolutely correct. I do love a good food mission. The madeleines have been one of my favorites. (Stay tuned for my macaron mission. I haven't quite mastered those yet, but hope to someday soon!)

    Cakebrain: Thank you! They were even yummier TASTING! Glad to have you stop by.

    Bff Matt: I wish you could try these! I promise to whip you up a batch when you visit me in March. And I'm glad you agree with me about the Starbucks madeleines...

    xxA

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  8. Oh your madeleines look LOVELY and YUMMY! I must admit that I have a slight obsession with Starbucks madeleines as well. I hope you found Sunrise - and if you didn't get a chance to go, it's on the same street and side as Around the Clock and next to the corner bookstore.

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  9. Oh! I forgot, I wanted to tell you that you selected an excellent, excellent poem for your blog. I haven't read that on in years, but it is often in my mind, especially when I write my blog.

    Peko@KyotoFoodie

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  10. You have described almost precisely my experience with my first Madeleine. The only thing that changes was the location of my exclamation.

    I'd seen the packages of Madeleines hanging on the bread racks at Trader Joe's for years -- ditto the counter at Starbuck's. They always looked rather dull and stale, hard, uninteresting. My lack of good breeding was such that I'd really never paid much attention to Proust and his tales of tea cake goodness.

    Then, one day several months ago, I was in a Trader Joe's bread aisle when an employee wandered up and excused herself for her reach, and taking a bag off the rack, told me it was her break and she had to sate her craving. This was my opportunity:

    "What's the deal with those, anyway. They look dry. Are they good?"

    She replied "You must try one. Now. Right NOW. They are pure goodness." She opened up a bag, gave me one, I bit it ... and ::shudder:: ::joy:: ::happiness::

    "Seeeee???" she said. "Arn't they wonderful?"

    I was transformed. I bought several bags, and thereafter, bought them at Starbuck's, as well.

    Skip the brand at Costco by Sugar Bowl Bakery -- they really ARE dry. but the company which makes the Madeleines for Starbuck's is based in the Bay Area of California and they supply Trader Joe's as well -- at a reduced price.

    I, too, recently bought a Madeleine pan -- have yet to make any, which is why I clicked through from the Tastespotting Photo -- trying to get up my gumption.

    Now I'm going to go get one out of my freezer and have it right now.

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  11. Oh, your financier-madeleines look divine! I've never baked madeleines, but have wanted to since reading Proust, maybe I will now... Just have to get myself a madeleine pan first. I'm certainly going to visit your blog again to take a closer look at the other lovely recipes you have posted.

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  12. I remember riding the metro in Paris and gobbling up all the madeleines I'd purchased at the patissierie. They're so good and so dang cute. I would've liked to make financiers with a (raspberry tucked in each of them) for my tea party. I think your recipe sounds like a nice use of the coconut flour.

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  13. Oh, they sound so delicious! I, unfortunately, have a miserable egg-allergy. I wonder if there is some kind of substitution...? (Probably not, without sacrificing something along the way.)

    Your blog is beautiful.

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  14. Gorgeous blog! I read your "about me" page as well. Can't wait to read your first book!
    Cheers,
    JF

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  15. I just recently bought a madeleine pan so that I could make these little goodies for myself too!

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  16. Oh good! I'm real excited to see the outcome of the goodies you've bought at Sunrise. I can spend hours in there just reading the back of packages and boxes trying to figure out what certain things are, cause everything is in Japanese! And then on the ride home, you peek and stick your hand into the plastic bag examining each item. It's so much fun!

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  17. A lover of sweets myself, I've been following your newer blog. Alejandra, how do you find the time to make these desserts?

    You should compile a top 10 list of bakeries or something.

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  18. Jane, the answer to your question is very simple. I basically just don't sleep much. I tend to do my best baking around midnight. I like your idea for a bakery round-up. I'll definitely add it to my to-do list!

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  19. unfortunately, they do not sell madeleines at starbucks in australia, as i have informed many a disgruntled american tourist. perhaps it's for the best; i don't think my waistline could handle it...

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  20. I thoroughly enjoyed your story as to how you discovered madeleines - I had a similar experience when my sister-in-law made them for after dinner treats with coffee - I am keen to make them. The madeleine pans in Australia are hopeless - about to purchase one on Amazon - what do you recommend? I am considering a World Cuisine metallic sheet or a Chicago metallic - any comments greatly appreciated. Maggie Shanklin Perth Western Australia

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  21. Financiers are also called friands and you can get special pans for them

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