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By Ian Farrell

SAN FRANCISCO, 9 FEBRUARY 2010 Considering current banking circumstances, it’s hard to imagine that something sweet and modest could ever have been named in honor of financiers. But master pastry chef Ian Farrell shares with us his recipe for just such a chocolate-infused dessert.

Le Financier is a traditional French tea cake similar to a sponge but made with almonds and brown butter. It was created for the financiers on the floor of the Paris stock exchange as a little snack. It's a dry cake so they wouldn't get their hands sticky while working. Another theory is that it is named after the  traditional rectangular shape which looks like a bar of gold.

Ian Farrell: Chocolate Fiancier
Photo: Josephine Leung

Chocolate Financier


7 ounces                 powdered sugar  
3 ounces                 almond flour with the skin
2 ounces                 all purpose flour
1 ounce                   cocoa powder 
1/2 teaspoon          baking powder     
8 oz                         egg whites  
1 tablespoon          dark rum 
1 tablespoon          vanilla extract 
1 ounce                   honey
5 ounces                 brown butter, melted



Combine all sifted dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Add egg whites and vanilla.

Stir in melted brown butter.

Stir in honey.

Spray desired mold with baking non-stick spray. Pipe mix into molds filling two thirds full.

Bake @ 350 F for 25-30 mins without convection.


  • To make brown butter, melt 7 ounces of butter in a pot. Continue to boil butter being careful not to let it boil over. It will froth up and gradually start to brown. Lower heat to medium and cook the butter to a deep brown color. Take off heat. Remove froth from the top and carefully spoon the liquid butter into another bowl. Discard the brown pieces in the bottom of the pot. You can use it straight away or keep it in the refrigerator like regular butter until needed.
  • The cake batter can be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated for up to one week. Just remove it from the cooler and pipe into desired molds.


Soft Toffee


12 ounces          heavy cream    
1/2  vanilla pod (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)    
2 ounces             butter, softened   
3  sheets             gelatin
8 ounces             sugar


Soak gelatin leaves in 2 cups of water for about 5 minutes. When softened, remove from the water and place in a small container.

Place sugar in a pot and add enough water to make a thick paste. Using a wet pastry brush, wash down the sides of the pan. Cook over a high heat until it caramelizes and turns a deep amber color.

Remove from heat and very carefully add cream slowly. When cream is added, return to a boil stirring constantly to dissolve any caramel.

Remove from heat and add butter. Allow to melt.

Whisk in gelatin.

Line a baking pan with plastic wrap and strain toffee onto the pan. It should be about a 1/4 inch thick.

Allow to set for 2 - 3 hours in cooler.


Star Anise Poached Asian Pear


1 cup             sugar 
2 cups           water    
3                    whole star anise
4                    whole cloves 
1                    cinnamon stick
1/2  vanilla bean cut crossways in half
3  medium size asian pears peeled, quartered and cored


Combine sugar, 2 tablespoons water, star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick and vanilla in a large pot. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves and then continue to cook over high heat until it begins to caramelize and turn to a brown color. Take off heat. Being very careful, add remaining water slowly and return to a simmer.

Add pears and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes turning pears once during this time.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer pears to a bowl. Boil syrup on a high heat until thick and syrupy. Pour over pears and allow to cool for at least 3 hours or overnight.

To Serve:

Place Financier cake on a plate. Cut toffee into desired shape with a knife or cookie cutter and place on top of the cake. Chop pears into large pieces and place on plate. Pour a little syrup onto the pears. Serve with a little vanilla ice cream and finish with some cocoa nibs or a chocolate cocoa nib tuile.


A native of Kilkenny, Ireland, Ian Farrell is Executive Pastry Chef at Oracle Corporation where he turns out a line of cakes, pastries and signature truffles for the software giant's campus cafes, French- style patisserie and executive dining rooms. Chef Farrell also offers classes throughout the year on baking and chocolate making.


BOOK TIP: All titles are chosen by the editors as being of interest to Culturekiosque readers.

Written by Paule Cuvelier and Cathy Selena (contributor)
Photographs and styling by Natacha Nikouline 

Hardcover: 2 Volumes, 192 pages
Flammarion: 2008
ISBN: 978-2-08-030055-3 (2-08-030055-5)
US Price: $29.95
CAN Price: $36.00

Volume 1 of this elegant 2-volume work, The History of Chocolate, documents how the discovery and cultivation of the cocoa bean among the pre-Columbian Aztecs and Mayans developed both as a drink and a form of currency.

"When Hernan Cortés arrived in Tenochtitlán (now Mexico City) a rabbit cost ten cocoa beans, while a slave was worth a hundred...The most ancient calendar inscriptions record the exchange value of cocoa beans. To be a banker at that time was one of the most coveted positions in society."

Cocoa's subsequent transformation into a valuable commodity led to the establishment of Europe’s finest chocolate houses and its acceptance at all levels of society.

The second volume, The Taste of Chocolate, is devoted to the appreciation of chocolate and includes tips on the optimal conditions to savor it and how to find suitable pairings, whether fruit, cheese, wine or spices. It also explains the terms used by the professionals — defining garniture, couverture, or ganache, for example — and the specialist techniques used in preparing the basic material into fine confectionary.

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