In the past few months my family has formed a fragile relationship with three stray cats. Despite our better reasoning, we’ve been feeding them meals now and then when they come sit at our back door. For the most part they visit individually, but on the rare occasions that two of them cross paths icy tension ensues. Out of the three, an orange and white tabby reigns fire over the two smaller grey and white cats. They fall powerless while in her presence and reluctantly bow away from their precious meal. I’m not particularly fond of cats, to be honest they intimidate and scare me (dogs on the other hand are a different story), but my heart goes out to these underlings and I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if they had proper homes and owners. They may have been a close knit family, or feline frenemies, but a lot more comfortable and pampered, the life all cats deserve in my mind. I guess that’s what pulls at me the most, but perhaps I’m naive in thinking that their lives would be better living trapped within four walls…
In any case, I feel this give and take can’t last forever. This “relationship” walks on eggshells and at some point someone will forget, to set out a plate or wait, and the fragile symbiosis will lose its rhythm and break. I hope, when that happens, they’ll find another backdoor to go sit at and another family will take notice or invite them in.
Despite my intimidation, these cats are the inspiration behind today’s financiers. I had bought these cute cat molds on sale a while back and completely forgot about them (ps: I also bought the dog version too, but those are for another day!). Seeing the strays reminded me of those molds and thus recipe brainstorming began.
I really wanted to create a financier because, 1. I love them and 2. In my mind they hold similar characteristics to that of cats. Soft but dense with subtle hints of this and that, it’s like the lightness of a cat’s step but surprisingly heavy droop when held. Financiers are a classic french pastry, similar to a madeleine but more moist and heavy. Because of its small two-bite size people refer to it as a cookie, but to me it’s more like a mini mini cake. Simply mix almond meal, a little flour, sugar, egg whites, and beurre noisette or browned butter together and you have a classic financier batter ready to be baked.
The classic recipe calls for nothing more than those five ingredients (and I love the original for all of its nutty caramel goodness), but for the sake of my muses I added my favorite jasmine tea, dragon pearl, for extra flavor. My friend from college sent me these for my birthday, actually two birthdays because I loved it so much, and I felt like it would be a good addition. The tea pairs especially well with almond milk (my favorite way to take it!), and so I thought it would weave seamlessly into the almond based batter. For a little brightness I added orange zest, which brings a little flirtation to the otherwise heavy notes, and to end I added rough chunks of good dark chocolate to mimic the spots and stripes of the cutest of the stray kitties (pictured below).
All of the flavors came together graciously: the melted chocolate with orange and caramel hints all wrapped up in the warm jasmine aromas, puurrfect. Sorry I couldn’t resist!
The key to a good financier is not to over mix the batter and form gluten bonds. To ensure that that didn’t happen I used oat flour which is gluten free. Oat flour can be made at home by pulverizing oats in a processor until fine, or if you can’t be bother all purpose flour can be substituted instead.
Chocolate Speckled Jasmine & Orange Financiers
Makes 25 mini muffins/cats
100 g butter
110 g almond meal
10 g oat flour
1 tea bag, dragon pearl tea chopped or other jasmine tea of choice
Orange zest, to taste
Pinch of salt
55 g brown sugar
10 g honey
120 g egg whites (from 3-4 eggs)
70 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Extra butter for molds
To make the beurre noisette, browned butter, place the butter in a saucepan and melt over medium low heat. Continue cooking the butter over low heat, swirling the saucepan frequently so as not to let the butter burn. When the butter begins to look and smell nutty, take off heat. Strain and set aside to cool completely.
In a bowl, mix the almond meal, oat flour, tea, orange zest, salt, and brown sugar together. Add the egg whites and honey. Mix until just combined. Once the butter is completely cooled, add to the batter and carefully mix in. When the butter is almost incorporated add the dark chocolate pieces. Cover with plastic wrap or pour into a piping bag and place in the fridge for at least one hour or up to three days.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees F or 205 degrees C. Brush molds with melted butter and place in fridge for one minute to set. Once the butter is set, fill the molds until almost completely full.
Bake for 11-12 minutes until edges are golden brown, then lower oven temperature to 350 degrees C or 175 degrees C and bake for another 6-7 minutes. Once out of oven remove onto a rack and cool.
Best eaten right away but can be kept for several days in an airtight container.