Most of the time, the dishes I make with my kids are adaptations of recipes I’ve made for years and know by heart. Dishes I make with my cooking students follow a similar pattern; I teach children to cook by hand, using all their senses, so often there are no recipes. However, every once in a while a cookbook comes out that I’m really excited to use in my kitchen.
Mardi Michels is a cooking teacher in Toronto who just published In the French Kitchen with Kids. It’s full of beautiful, simple dishes, and the idea is to involve little hands - the author has tested all the recipes extensively in her cooking classes for boys aged 7-14. I was particularly looking forward to trying out some of the recipes in the After-School Snacks chapter; I’m always looking for ways to add to my family’s snack repertoire.
As the author explains in her book, in France an after-school snack is almost always a sweet baked treat. If you’re going to have something sweet, I think mid-late afternoon is a good time of day for it; far better than after dinner, say, when everyone’s trying to wind down. We have sweet after-school snacks on occasion, and making them ourselves is always my favourite choice, of course.
Financiers are small tea-cakes with a very light texture, made with egg whites and ground almonds (which also up the nutrition factor). The standard Financier is the shape of a small gold bar (like a tiny loaf cake); the snack was named in the 19th Century for the busy bankers who grabbed them to eat on the go in the financial district of Paris. Here the author suggests making them in a mini muffin pan; my batterie de cuisine is pretty well-stocked but even I don’t have a Financier pan.
Polly (now 4 1/2) loved grinding up almonds in the spice grinder to make almond flour, separating eggs to yield 4 whites, whisking the dry ingredients and topping each cake with half a raspberry. I knew this would be a good recipe to start with in this chapter since it requires no resting or advance prep and the cakes are so small that they bake as cookies do: in 10 minutes! A perfectly quick after-school project.
The cakes turned out beautifully and have a wonderfully rich flavour (I’m thanking the almonds…and the butter!). As an extremely special treat, I let the kids sprinkle icing sugar on the tops. Such a thrill.
The kids were also very excited to take one in their hands enroute to school the next morning. (As a side note, I used up the remaining 4 egg yolks from this recipe the next day at breakfast, when I made a rich version of this - which the kids ate before devouring their morning cakes!)
I love the financiers’ tiny size and the beauty of the little berry in the middle. And we can pretend we live in France…if only briefly.
Mardi and her publisher have generously agreed to share her Financier recipe with us here at Bite-Sized Kitchen. Please do follow her on Instagram to keep up with her wonderful activities. Thank you so much, Mardi! We love your book.
Excerpted from In the French Kitchen with Kids by Mardi Michels. Copyright © 2018 Mardi Michels. Photography © Kyla Zanardi. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Makes 24 cakes
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 10 to 12 minutes
Notes from the Bite-Sized Kitchen: Salted butter also works; I recommend going with the raspberry option for sure; and we were too impatient to wait until they cooled all the way before sprinkling on icing sugar….they tasted delicious.
Unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter
4 large egg whites
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (50 g) almond meal
1/3 cup (50 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Icing sugar, for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C). If you are using a nonstick mini muffin pan you may not need to butter them, but otherwise generously butter the cups of the pan.
2. Melt the butter either in a small pot on the stovetop over medium heat or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave for about 1 minute. Set aside to cool.
3. Beat the egg whites until frothy with handheld electric beaters on high speed, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, almond meal, flour and salt.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold them in gently with a rubber spatula until just combined.
6. Add the cooled, melted butter to the batter and use a rubber spatula to gently mix until the butter is completely incorporated.
7. Divide the batter between the cups of the muffin pan. You can do this with a 1 1/2-tablespoon cookie scoop or a small spoon. Fill each cup almost to the top.
8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the center is slightly puffed and the edges are golden and slightly crispy and coming away from the pan. There may be cracks in the tops. That’s totally okay!
9. Remove the financiers from the muffin pan immediately and allow to cool on wire racks.
10. Once they have cooled completely, sprinkle them with icing sugar to serve. These are best eaten the day they are made, although they can keep for a couple of days in an airtight container at room temperature.
Option: Raspberry financiers. Just before you bake the financiers, cut 12 raspberries in half and place one half, cut side down, on top of each financier. Press down gently.