Sadaharu Aoki’s Financier au Mâcha Salè 青木定治のフィナンシェオ抹茶
Sadaharu Aoki, a name that is prominently featured in my blog. Yes, I’m a big fan of his work, and more so, his determination and perseverance to excel and be the best. Not an easy feat, especially for a Japanese who didn’t speak a word of French when he first landed in Paris at the age of 21 more than 20 years back But he was determined to make it big and went through a lot to bring himself to the level of international recognition and fame which he enjoys today. When his contemporaries like Hidemi Sugino and Hideki Kawamura chose to remain in Japan after winning international pastry competitions like Coupe du Monde, Aoki made his base in Paris instead. Seemingly what a Don Quixote would do, most would think, to make a name for himself in the epicentre of pastry making, where so many others have failed. The odds of succeeding were slim but that challenge suited him best. An urban fairytale for any pastry lover…
His strategy was simple – to create a niche, incorporating Japanese wagashi making techniques and ingredients into the art of pastry-making. In the hands of Aoki, these two long-standing traditions of culinary arts met for the first time. Clash of the Titans but the amalagmation worked brilliantly and sparked off a whole wave of dessert making trends in Japan and abroad. In retrospect, it was probably a “make or break” moment for Aoki when he created his first matcha madeleine or his first yuzu macaron, flavours which we had long since taken for granted.
Unlike his colleagues in the realm of the “pastry gods”, Aoki’s recipes remain most elusive . When Pierre Herme has already more than a dozen cookbooks under his belt, Aoki has to date only two known publications, both in Japanese, both magazine-like books with less than a dozen recipes documented, and all somewhat run-in-the-mill bakes for the Japanese housewife next door. Wilson from Le Petite Vancouver and I were quivering with anticipation on what goodies Aoki would share on his profile feature on the haute patisserie magazine “So Good” sometime back, only to leave us cursing and bitching swearing in disgruntlement and disappointment. No recipes were featured. What a letdown! Aoki san, you are such a scroogebag! LOL
All is not lost, Aoki does have several recipes scattered in some books here and there, one of which is the Financier au Mâcha Salè I’d shared here. The ingredients required is a pretty simple assemblage. Nothing too surprisingly. The finished product was quite delish. Couldn,t stop popping these petit four sec in my mouth as I photographed them. Yes they are good, so do try them. :)
Sadaharu Aoki’s Financier au Mâcha Salè (a silicon tray mould of makes 16)
|Ingredients||Original Recipe||Modified Recipe|
|Fleur de sel||Q.S||Q.S|
Roast whole blanched almond and hzelnuts in the oven at 120C for 20 min
When they are completely cooled, blitz them in a blender to obtain desired quantities.
Heat butter in a heavy saucepan until it melts and begins to sizzle and bubble. This is the excess water in the butter being boiled off. When the sizzling stops, turn off flame and let the mixture cool down. Carefully decant into a porcelain container e.g. ramekin, leaving the browned milk portein solids behind.The dark amber oil is brown/hazelnut butter aka buerre noisette.
Mix egg white with sugar and trimoline
Sift flour and incorporate into egg mixture
Add powdered nuts into mixture and mix, taking care not to incorporate too much air.
Heat buerre noisette until 80C and incorporate into mixture to emulsify.
Temper the mixture to 40C and pipe into moulds
Sprinkle the top generously with fleur de sel, white and black sesame
The recipe for financiers is pretty standard, egg whites with ground nuts and sugar. Like Pierre Hermé’s Financier Carré Blanc, Aoki’s green tea financiers also have trimoline incorporated. This helps to keep these little tea cakes moist and soft. What I liked about Aoki’s rendition is how the outer layer became slightly maillarded and developed a somewhat crusty texture, while the interior remained amazingly soft.
Two types of nuts were used, almond and hazelnut. I’d increased the proportions of hazelnuts, being partial to the taste and aroma of hazelnut. And to accentuate the nutty flavours, beurre noisette was used. Oooooh I love the smell of brown butter! Butter was heated to remove all of the moisture within. The burnt milk solids imparted the wonderful nuttiness of it. The aroma was so intense I could’t stop sticking my finger into the batter and take a lick!
Neccesarily, I played up the amount of matcha powder used and down the sugar by 25%. It could still be tweaked further to cut down the sugar for the bitterness of matcha to shine through. Replacing more sugar would trimoline is also an option, which could invariably make the piece softer and possibly more fluffy. But since the latter is quite costly, the plan was abandoned.
Resting the financier batter for a couple of hours, as with frangipane and madeleine batter is a trick I picked up from Chef Gregoire Michaud from Four Seasons Hong Kong. And of course, it worked beautifully.
Another interesting technique is the tempering of the batter. buerre noisette was heated t0 80C before adding to the remaining mixture to help with the emulsification process. This helps to prevent the separation of the oils from the batter subsequently. Next was the tempering of the whole batter to 40C before piping and baking. I didn’t pipe the batter into the mould cavities but instead, used a measuring cup, which made the entire process much easier to handle. The trickling of batter as one moves the cup from one cavity to another is trivial. So there’s no cause of concern for that.
If I have to choose, I very much prefer Aoki’s financier recipe to Pierre Hermé’s . PH fans would probably cry foul, but it is much closer to what I had in mind of how a financier should be like, slightly crusty on the outside while soft and moist inside, with a bit of bite. So this recipe is definitely a keeper. And I can imagine improvisations of flavours which could be done to it to produce other probably Aoki flavours, e.g. Financier Yuzu, Financier Kurogoma etc.