From Fancy to Home-y: Apple Financier Cakes
The name “Apple Financier” evokes both “fancy” and “home-y” at the same time. Financiers are classic French petits fours: tasty little almond cakes made with lots of almonds, buerre noisette (browned butter), and egg whites. They get baked in tiny rectangular petits fours-size pans (or molds) that are shaped like little gold bricks. Even though this is the classic size and shape, pastry chefs often bake this batter in every other size and shape imaginable. Financiers supposedly have this name because their ingredients, to some, are on the expensive side. So, when you make Financier batter, think of it as your little indulgence. Apples, on the other hand, are very home-y and make you think of grandma’s kitchen with the aromas of cinnamon and spice wafting through the air, or your own kitchen, when there might be a simple “apple-something” baking in the oven for tonight’s dinner.
Even when I created desserts as a restaurant pastry chef, I always had “home-y” flavors in my mind. I like “home-y”. Many people eating in expensive restaurants also like “home-y” flavors, because it makes them think of things their grandma used to make. Restaurant desserts, known in the industry as “plated desserts”, tend to have a lot of components so that you can make them look great when they are ordered and plated up for service. The idea is to elicit a “wow!” when the waiter sets one in front of the restaurant guest. The presentation is almost as important as the flavor.
This dessert is based on one that was originally created for the chef’s tasting menu at The Old Inn on the Green. A tasting menu dessert is always tiny because it is the last of many courses, so the Apple Financier for that menu was baked in a 2-ounce pan instead of the 4-ounce pan in this recipe.
When a new dessert was ready to go on the menu and all components made, I would “plate up” the finished dessert, photograph it, and then create a “Plate Presentation” sheet for the cook who would be plating the dessert that night for dinner service. It takes five components to plate this dessert: the baked Apple Financier (made up of three components itself; financier batter, cooked apple filling, and a thin puff pastry shell), Apple Cider Reduction, Fresh Cream Gelato, Candied Almond Slices, and a Spiral Sugar Piece. As plated desserts go, five components is really on the low side; many have a lot more.
This is what the “Plate Presentation” Sheet looked like for this dessert:
DESSERT: APPLE FINANCIER
FRESH CREAM GELATO, CIDER REDUCTION
1) Apple Financier*
2) Apple Cider Reduction
3) Fresh Cream Gelato
4) Candied Almond Slices
5) Spiral Sugar Piece
*Small 2 oz Version—Chef’s Tasting Menu
Dessert by Shirl Gard, Pastry Chef—The Old Inn On The Green
The essence of the flavor in this dessert comes from the financier batter (delicious because of the browned butter and almonds) and the cooked apple filling. The combination of these two things, nestled in a pan lined with a wisp of thin puff pastry, becomes your warm baked “apple-something”. If you want to go a little further, add some store-bought vanilla ice cream, serve it with a little Apple Cider Reduction, or serve it simple with nothing at all. All you really is just is just the little cake to transform Apple Financier from a fancy plated dessert to a home-y one, where jazzy components, like sugar pieces, are unnecessary.