“There are only 10 minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat," said Ralph Waldo Emerson. And I must have missed those precious 10 minutes with the batch that went into these financiers. I did everything they tell you to do — I stored them in a warm place outside of the refrigerator in a paper bag and I checked daily for ripeness, pressing them with my eager fingers, gently at first, near the stem, willing their flesh to give, just a little.
Two weeks passed; no joy.
And so I turned to Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Heaven, within whose pages my absolute favourite recipe for turning bum pears into baby cakes of beauty lay. Browned butter, ground almonds and mellow bits of cooked pear — what’s not to love? In the book’s picture, Ramsey’s financiers are made in cup moulds, yielding tall, cylindrical, seemingly fluffy golden cakes. When I first made them in similar moulds, however, they emerged dense and a tad heavier that I thought they should be. Several experiments later, I have concluded that they turn out best baked in shallow tins like traditional financier moulds or the barquette tins I used for this batch.
These cakes are wonderfully rustic. They are lovely and damp and need nothing more than a good cup of tea, or perhaps, when I’m feeling decadent, a dollop of vanilla or crème fraiche ice cream. They are best eaten the same day they’re made, but if you must, store them in the fridge and warm them in the oven slightly before eating.
Several days later, a pretty, fragrant pineapple appeared with my boxful of organic produce, brimming with such promise. I saved it for the weekend, bringing it to my nose every now and then to sniff its sweet perfume. When I finally skinned it and cut a small chunk out of it, alas, disappointment. It was so tart it made my eyes burn and my gums crawl. Had it not been one of those super busy weeks, I might have grated the lot and turned it into jam, and then maybe, just maybe, pineapple tarts. But as it turns out, it was one of those weeks where my cats are lucky if they get a quick hello before I drop off to sleep. So we saved the slices of pineapple for dessert the next day when we basted it with honey and grilled it till it turned a brilliant shade of gold.
Gordon Ramsey’s Pear Financiers
(adapted from Kitchen Heaven)
125 g unsalted butter
25g plain flour
125g ground almonds
4 egg whites
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C/375 degrees F. Melt the butter in a pan over high heat until it starts to go brown and then strain through a fine sieve. Leave to cool. Peel and core the pears and chop them into 1cm dice. Put 75g of the sugar into a warmed pan and heat gently until caramelised. Add the diced pear and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until it just starts to break down. Take out of the pan and leave to cool.
Mix the flour, ground almonds and the remaining sugar in a large bowl. Slowly fold in the egg whites, then stir in the melted butter. Grease your moulds with butter and then dust with flour. Put in the fridge for 10 mins. Combine the almond mixture with the pears, then pour into the moulds. Bake at the top of the oven for 25 mins until golden brown and firm.