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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Spiced Tea Financiers for Fall

Finally, after a long, hot summer in Japan, I am back home and in the baking mood. Unfortunately, being the lazy baker that I am, I found my larders bare of sugar, and my neighbors seemed to be in no mood to lend me a cup or two. Sugar, people! It's the kind of essential item that I still couldn't justify a run to the grocery store for, especially at ten at night--what kind of girl is going to Safeway for granulated sugar on a Wednesday night? Really.

So, having splurged on a bagful of adorably tiny decorative baking cups in Tokyo, I set out in search of a recipe that used powdered sugar and honey instead of normal ol' granulated. Strangely enough, a French gardening website proved fruitful in its recipe for Madeleines à l'anise et au miel, or honey-anise madeleines.

God, I love madeleines. They are the perfect combination of crunchy and pillowy soft with a touch of grain on the palate that is perfectly balanced by a hot cup of tea. You can find them at gourmet grocery stores and bakeries in baggies, in lemon, chocolate, or plain flavors, but if you're me they need a little oomph. A little spice. I'd had Earl Grey flavored madeleines in Japan, tried and failed to make matcha madeleines, so why not combine the greatest yum factors into a single, delicious little morsel?

Out of the cupboard came a baggie of Indian cardamom tea I'd pulverized in the food processor, some of the last remains of a bag of almond meal, and nutmeg for the following recipe:
100g unsalted butter
100g powdered sugar
45g flour
55g almond meal
pinch of salt
1/2 tbsp finely ground flavored black tea leaves
dash ground nutmeg, cinnamon, or other spice as desired
3 egg whites
3 tbsp honey

1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat until slightly bubbly. Your butter might have a sort of white scum on the surface, don't worry about it. Allow to cool while preparing other ingredients.
2. Combine the powdered sugar, flour, almond meal, salt, tea, and spice in a medium bowl. Mix well.
3. In a separate small bowl, whisk the egg whites for a few minutes until frothy. The frothier the better, but don't go overboard, you want the color of the froth to stay a light yellow color--don't make a meringue.
4. Stir the egg whites into the dry ingredients. Some dry bits will remain unincorporated. Strain the melted butter into the mixture and stir remaining honey well until smooth and sticky. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
5. Heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Spoon or pipe batter into baking cups or a buttered, floured madeleine pan until halfway full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are browned and a tester comes out clean.

Mine came out with crunchy browned corners where the batter stuck into the star-corners, brown at the base but fluffy and moist in the center. The tea wasn't ground well enough, maybe, or my almond meal was a little clumpy but the mouthfeel wasn't as smooth as I would want. Ah, well. Oh, one note--mine are technically neither madeleines nor financiers since I used cups and not the traditional baking pans for either of those. I just like calling things "financiers." Enjoy!

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