Monday, 8 September 2014

Blackberry & Walnut Friands

I’m still a little obsessed with small cakes and miniaturised baked goods at the moment… but despite the extensive collection of cake tins and other baking accessories that I own, I only have a couple of cupcake pans and one miniature muffin tin. However, I went a little bit mad online last week and addressed these equipment shortcomings in an emphatic way! Let’s just say that I am now the proud owner of a friand tin – which is like a cupcake tin but with oval shaped ‘holes’. I may have ordered some other much needed (ahem) baking accessories, but more of these again.

As regular followers of this blog will know, I have been experimenting with baking financiers – little light almond (although other nuts can be used) sponge cakes recently. Financiers are usually baked in small, rectangular moulds, like flat mini-loaf cakes to resemble gold bars in honour of the workers in the French financial district after whom they were named and originally sold to. As with most things there are now a range of moulds available and personally, I have produced some very successful versions of financiers using mini muffin tins. You don’t absolutely have to use special tins or moulds to bake them and I certainly didn’t absolutely need specialist tins to bake the friands… but I REALLY wanted one!!!

Now, here’s the thing, I have been talking about financiers and friands as if they are two completely different types of cake, but to be honest… they really aren’t! They are made in practically the same way, but friands are baked in the oval shaped moulds and, in size, are more comparable to cupcake or muffin.

Friands are hugely popular in Australia and are a mainstay in many bakeries and cake shops, whereas financiers are extremely French! Whilst both can be made without the addition of fruit, I like to include some because I find the combination of fruit and nuts extremely satisfying to eat. I particularly like using soft fruits and berries in the friands as their slight sharpness and intense fruit flavour cuts through the sweetness.

The hedgerows on the land behind my house are laden with blackberries at the moment, so it seemed appropriate to use some of them. I was going to use ground almonds as my nut of choice, but recently got some beautiful walnuts so chose these instead. I love walnuts, but realise that they are not as popular as almonds, hazelnuts and pecans. The berries that I managed to pick were beautiful and plump and when baked in the friands, released their dark purple juices which tasted wonderful against the slightly tannic note of the walnuts. This is a pairing that I will definitely be making again.
 
The great thing about both friands and financiers is that due to the inclusion of nuts, they do not dry out or go stale quickly and can be stored very successfully in an air-tight container for up to 5 days. In fact, the only downside in making them, as far as I can see, is that quite a number of egg whites are required. This inevitably means that you are left with quite a lot of egg yolks. For me this is not a problem, because I love any excuse to make custards and creamy tarts, which predicates the need for loads of yolks! If this doesn’t appeal, I should point out that cartons of pasteurised egg whites are now readily available to buy in many supermarkets. I find them really handy when I’m going on a macaron or meringue baking marathon.

For all their simplicity in terms of making them, I think that there is something very sophisticated and grown up about these friands. The recipe makes 12 friands, but you could easily half it to make 6 if you’d prefer. Also, I have used ground walnuts which I roasted at 150C for 10 minutes and then ground in my food processor when cool and also used some store-bought ground almonds as well, but you could use ground walnuts only or substitute others.

Ingredients:

250g icing sugar
50g plain flour
125g ground walnuts
45g ground almonds
6 large egg whites, lightly beaten
200g unsalted butter, melted and allowed to brown to the beurre noisette (nutty brown) stage and allowed to cool slightly
125g blackberries
 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200C/Fan Oven 180C/ Gas Mark 6. Butter a 12-hole friand tin and then flour each of the holes, shaking out the excess. Set aside.
2. Sift the icing sugar and flour into a large mixing bowl and add the ground nuts mixing well with your hands so that everything is well distributed. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the egg whites. Use a small wire whisk to mix in the egg whites and once they have been incorporated, add the butter and mix through again. The batter will be quite runny.
3. Divide the batter between the 12 holes of the friand tin. Pop a couple of blackberries on top of each friand and bake in the preheated oven for 15-17 minutes until well risen and a golden brown colour. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
 
Makes 12.