Monday, March 16, 2020

Chocolate-Pistachio Financiers

One year ago this past week I moved to a new home.  This was my first move in almost 30 years…and it involved a lot of changes and adjustments to routines and responsibilities.  Everything about the move was good…but developing, testing and writing about recipes fell to the bottom of my to-do list for pretty much the whole of 2019. 

As 2020 began, things felt as if they were calming down a bit, but I still struggled to find room for my blog.  I had begun to wonder if I was going to be able to find time to work up a recipe and write a tenth anniversary blog post (which just so happens to be today!), when all of a sudden I have found myself with abundant time:  In the space of four days every piece of business on my calendar for the remainder of March has been canceled as almost all social interactions have ground to a halt in an attempt to stem the tsunami that is COVID-19. 

In light of the current situation, before I share my anniversary recipe, I want to encourage readers to follow me on Instagram or Twitter (if you aren’t already).  I love IG and have been fairly active there for the past few years, regularly sharing the things that I cook at home in hopes that this will provide inspiration for others in the daily quest to put dinner on the table.  As we are entering this time of social distancing and self isolation, I will begin to post this same kind of thing  on Twitter as well. 

I don’t know how long the current situation will last, but as restaurants are today beginning to close their doors many people will find themselves in the foreign territory of having to cook for themselves on a regular basis.  This would be hard enough in normal times—but it’s even more difficult if you are trying to feed yourself from a limited pantry of almost entirely shelf stable items.  So follow me—and encourage your friends (who might not have previously been in the habit of cooking for themselves) to follow me too—as I share the things I’m cooking for myself from a more limited pantry (supplemented by produce from less frequent trips to the grocery store).  It would be fantastic if there could be a truly good outcome from this rather traumatic period:  people rediscovering the pleasures of home, cooking and the table.

As for my anniversary, longtime readers might remember my tradition of making something Pistachio to mark each successive anniversary.  There is no particular reason for this other than I posted a pistachio cake on my first anniversary.  Then on the next one I made another pistachio cake.  At that point I felt like I needed to continue to challenge myself to come up with something featuring pistachios each year.  Besides cakes there have been a couple of cookie recipes, cupcakes, a savory sauce…even pancakes!

This year I made some mini cakes:  Chocolate-Pistachio Financiers.  The idea came to me as I was preparing for a class in February.  The dessert I taught was a “Chocolate Almond Mini Cake” from Patricia Wells’ book Simply French.  When I ran across the recipe I recognized it as a chocolate financier (a miniature French browned butter and almond meal cake).  Served with homemade espresso ice cream, it was a big hit with the class.

At the time it occurred to me that I would like the cake even more if it were made with pistachios.  I like almonds…but I love the flavor of pistachios—not to mention that it is especially good with chocolate.  And like all nut flours, pistachio flour/meal tenderizes and adds moisture.   

So, that was my plan for my anniversary post.  But as the day approached, I still hadn’t made a pistachio version.  Then, suddenly I had the whole weekend right before my anniversary free…with no pressing projects (other than figuring out how I’m going to earn a living for the foreseeable future….).

So I made these little chocolate-pistachio cakes my Sunday project (I’m trying to have a specific project each day while my work has stopped and I’m stuck at home).  And as it turned out, I was right:  I do indeed like them better than the almond ones.  The almond version didn’t get the lovely glaze I put on the pistachio cakes—but even without it, I think the pistachio cakes would still be better.  Pistachios have a natural sweetness that enhances the chocolate rather than diluting its flavor the way added sugar might.  They are intensely chocolate-y, tender and moist.  The perfect little bite of cake. 

If you are a baker, you probably have all of the ingredients for these cakes in your pantry already.  If you don’t have pistachios, but you have almonds…or hazelnuts…you can substitute either of those and have a delicious cake.  Baking is a great thing to do when you are stuck at home.  Besides baking, I’m catching up on other things I never had time to do this past year…and reveling in the extra time I have available to spend out in my garden at one of my favorite moments of the gardening year (when everything is waking up). And hopefully I’ll spend more time getting back into the rhythm of testing recipes and posting them here for all of you to enjoy.

Chocolate Pistachio Financiers

55 g. (1/2 c.) pistachio flour/meal (see note)
30 g. (1/4 c.) all-purpose flour
5 g. (1 T.) cocoa
90 g. (3/4 c.) powdered sugar
1/4 t. salt
90 g. bittersweet (70%) chocolate, chopped
20 g. (1 T.) honey
90 g. (6 T.) unsalted butter
3 egg whites (90 grams)—beaten until foamy
1 recipe chocolate glaze
2 or 3 T. coarsely chopped pistachios

Whisk the first five ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside. 

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and drizzle the honey over.  Place the butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. As the butter begins to sputter and pop, whisk occasionally. The butter solids will begin to turn brown. When the solids are a golden brown and the butter has a pleasantly nutty aroma, pour the butter over the chocolate and honey (making sure to get all the browned bits).  Let sit for a few moments.  Whisk until smooth.

Add the egg whites to the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.  Drizzle in the warm chocolate mixture in while whisking until fully incorporated.  Divide the batter among 9 buttered 2 oz. ramekins (or you can use a standard muffin tin--just fill 9 instead of all 12).  Chill for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.  

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F.  If the ramekins have been in the fridge for longer than an hour or two, let them sit briefly on the counter so the ramekins can come to room temperature.  Place on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven.  Bake until the cake a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs—about 18 to 22 minutes.  Cool the cakes for 10 minutes before turning them out. 

The cakes may be served warm:  Dust with powdered sugar and serve with a small scoop of ice cream, custard sauce, or whipped cream.

Or, cool the cakes and decorate with chocolate glaze: Turn the cakes upside down (so the smooth, slightly domed side will face up) 

and place a spoonful of the cooled glaze (see below) in the center of a cake.  Spread the glaze to the edges so that it begins to drip randomly down the sides. Repeat with the remaining cakes.  

When the glaze is just set, garnish with a small mound of chopped pistachios placed on the center of each cake.  

The cakes may be baked up to 24 hours ahead.  Store airtight.

  • I have never found pistachio flour for sale.  I grind raw pistachios in a rotary nut grinder (the kind used for Parmesan) to make nut flour.
  • You can substitute almonds or hazelnuts for the pistachios
  • When I made these cakes I didn’t have any 70% chocolate in my pantry.  But I did have unsweetened (i.e. 100%) and 60%.  So I used 1/4 unsweetened and 3/4 60% to approximate 70%. 

Chocolate Glaze

55 g. (4 T) unsalted butter, diced
85g. (3 oz.) bittersweet chocolate, broken up
1 T. (21 g.) honey

Melt the butter, chocolate and honey together in the microwave or over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth.  Let the glaze cool until it just begins to thicken (the temperature will be about 80°

No comments: