I love the Celeste fig tree that we bought as a sapling from Whole Foods years ago; it's now far taller than I am, and so wide that I basically have to climb into the middle of it retrieve fruit from the inner branches. Not that there is ever much fruit to pick. While Figgy (as we've named the tree) is quite productive, the figs ripen on a rolling basis and I have to try to pick them in the brief moment of time after they're ripe but before they get eaten by the various types of wildlife in our backyard.
Our figs ripen quite late, during September and October. On a day in early October when we were planning to have dinner with some friends at our house (outdoors, at separate tables), I went in the backyard to see if I could get some figs to make a dessert. As I approached the tree, two squirrels scurried out and I scared off a large pigeon as well. The birds and squirrels had left a lot of half-eaten figs hanging off of the tree and I managed to rescue only four ripe, pristine pieces of fruit. Fortunately, this paltry harvest was sufficient to make Melissa Clark's Fig-Hazelnut Financiers.
To make the batter, you combine powdered sugar, hazelnut flour, all-purpose flour, and salt; beat in egg whites until the mixture is damp; add cooled brown butter and beat until smooth; and add vanilla. You're supposed to pour the batter into a buttered and floured muffin tin, but I thought that the financiers would look fancier if I baked them into cute little cylinders. So I used a individual cheesecake pan with removable bottoms. The cheesecake molds are smaller than standard muffins, but I divided the batter between twelve molds and figured it would be fine (the recipe is written to yield nine financiers if you use a muffin pan). I added a slice of fig on top of each financier before baking.
So it was definitely not a great idea to use the smaller cheesecake molds. Or at the very least, I put too much batter into each mold. The financiers spilled out of the molds and formed wide lids, defeating the entire point of my using the cheesecake molds in the first place, to create more elegant-looking cakes. Not only that, but I had only buttered the insides of each mold and not the top of the pan, so I had to work a little to pry the overflowing portion of each cake off the pan, especially because it was thin and prone to breakage. I wasn't happy with how these financiers looked.
However, they were incredibly delicious. The cakes were light with a pleasing bit of texture from the hazelnut flour, and deliciously flavored with browned butter and sweet hazelnut. My favorite part was the firm and deeply browned crust on top, which was slightly chewy. I was sad that the crust softened by day two, but the financiers were otherwise just as delicious the day after baking. The fig is just a bonus with these financiers, which are really all about the hazelnut. I would make them again even without the figs -- but in different pan!
Recipe: "Fig-Hazelnut Financiers" by Melissa Clark, from The New York Times.