Saturday, September 20, 2014

Roasted Yellow Tomato Soup with Green Harissa + Halloumi Croutons, and a Round-Up

A creamy, roasted tomato soup recipe made with yellow heirloom tomatoes and topped with a piquant green harissa and croutons of pan-fried halloumi cheese.  Gluten-free with vegan options.


Jay and I have beef about tomatoes, or at least we used to. I really shouldn't complain; on the scale of things to fight over with your partner, tomatoes rank down by the relatively harmless, such as whether to eat salad and tacos for every meal ever, or whether one person failing to refill a half-empty ice tray gives the other person grounds to call the first person a psychopath.


Anyway, once Jay discovered dry-farmed Early Girls, he turned his back on heirlooms. I don't entirely blame him (though clearly I have yet to forgive the ice tray incident). Early Girls are consistently sweet, with dense flesh and tons of tomato flavor. They're perfect for sauces, soups, and for eating in salads and on tacos (just not for every meal ever). Plus they're small, and easy to use up in a sandwich in one go. 


But last year toward the end of tomato season, I found I could no longer resist the pull of the brightly hued, irregularly shaped heirlooms, and I picked out the biggest yellow tomato I could find. When Jay saw my plan, he protested, expounding in the middle of the produce aisle on how impractical large tomatoes were. So I got two of them. They were nearly as big as my head, ripe and heavy; no matter that we had a 20 minute hike home. They probably cost upwards of $20 altogether. 


I brought home my prizes and cut one open, only to find that its beguiling exterior gave way to dry and pithy insides. Same with the second tomato. We unhappily ate sub-par tomato sandwiches for lunch that day. I mourned my lack of good tomato, but I also grieved something far greater: I had been wrong, and, worse still, Jay had been right. 


But when life gives you pithy tomatoes, what do you do? Do you sulk in the corner? Do you throw yourself a pithy party? Do you, er, expect some empithy from your partner? (Sorry..) Well, yes, I did. But I also roasted those suckers and pureed them into soup, and it was some of the best tomato soup I'd ever had. (I even let Jay have some, just to prove how right I had been to get those tomatoes. Ha!)


This is a slightly fancied-up version of that desperate tomato soup. There are a lot of roasted tomato soups about the interwebs, but the one that stayed in my mind is this one from Honey + Jam. I made a few modifications, using yellow tomatoes in homage to my accidental tomato soup of yore. I add fennel, saffron, and smoked paprika, which boost the flavors. And I top bowls with a green harissa and cubes of pan-fried halloumi.


Roasting the tomatoes with shallots, garlic, and aromatics concentrates their flavor, meaning that you can get away with using water in the soup instead of stock, letting the tomato flavor take center stage. Everything goes into a food processor and gets pureed until fairly smooth (the fennel stays in little nubs that add texture to the finished product). There's no need to peel or seed the tomatoes, as these components aren't noticeable in the end, though they do add body and fiber. Then the puree goes into a pot with water and a touch of saffron, smoked paprika, and cream, and simmers for a bit to meld the flavors together. 


While the soup simmers, you make a green harissa with parsley, cilantro, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, chile, fennel seed, and coriander. Similar to chimichurri, green harissa is a lightly spicy condiment that can go on almost anything, from grilled meats or vegetables to whole grain bowls to (our favorite) quesadillas with avocado. It's even good on tacos. When swirled into tomato soup, it adds a fresh counterpoint to all that creamy richness.


If you can keep yourself from nomming the fried halloumi straight from the pan, it adds little bursts of salty, lactic flavor to the soup, where it softens up a bit, taking on a dumpling-like consistency.


If you're looking for ways to preserve summer, a big batch of tomato soup is just the thing. It will keep for several days refrigerated, or you can freeze it (in straight-sided mason jars with plenty of room on top for expansion) for a gloomy winter's night when you may be in need of a little comfort. (Say, because someone just called you a psychopath.)


In fact I've got my eye on some other tomato soups to make before the summer ends, though I may try them with dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes instead of heirlooms. Don't tell Jay...


Here are some stunning tomato soups from around the blogosphere:

-Really Good Vegan Tomato Soup from The First Mess gets creaminess from pureed cashews

-Heather Christo's Creamy Tomato Basil Soup does, too, and is a simpler, stove-top version of the above

-Tomato and Bread Soup, a.k.a. Pappa al Pomodoro from Simply Recipes is an Italian classic

-Roasted Tomato Basil Soup with Orzo from Foodiecrush gets texture from tiny pasta

-Carrot, Tomato and Coconut Soup from Green Kitchen Stories is bright orange and spiked with turmeric and sweet corn

-Tomato Soup with Mozzarella and Coriander Olive Oil from Pratos & Travessas gets a bit of oomph from potatoes and a bay leaf

-Roasted Tomato Soup from Naturally Ella comes from The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook and is topped with whole grain bread and thick slices of mozzarella

-Roasted Tomato and Bread Soup from Alexandra's Kitchen gets a kick from red pepper flakes

-Roasted Spiced Tomato Soup from Kiran Tarun is laced with cumin, coriander, turmeric, and roasted garlic

-Curry Red Pepper and Tomato Soup from Will Frolic for Food combines curry vindaloo, ginger and coconut milk with roasted sweet peppers and heirloom tomatoes

-I've had my eye on the Creamy Tortilla Soup from Love & Lemons since I saw it last year, which uses fire-roasted whole Roma tomatoes and coconut milk to create a creamy base

-Creamy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons from Damn Delicious puts the classic sandwich right into the soup (also Caprese Tomato Soup topped with burrata and balsamic reduction - yum!)

-Roasted Tomato Soup with Broiled Cheddar from Kitchen Konfidence has all the decadence of french onion soup

-Fresh Tomato Soup with Mascarpone from Love and Olive Oil gets a sophisticated boost from white wine and mascarpone cheese

-Roasted Tomato Soup with Parmesan Popcorn from No. 2 Pencil gets a creatively crunchy topping

-Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup from The Glossy Life combines two of my favorite late-summer vegetable fruits into a soup made creamy with almond milk

-Chickpea and Roasted Tomato Soup from Relish is gussied up with cinnamon, cumin, paprika, sour cream, and fried rosemary

-Heidi Swanson's Roasted Tomato Soup from 101 Cookbooks gets a swirl of smoked paprika and is garnished simply with a slice or two of roasted tomato

-If you don't have time to make soup, make a batch of these Cheddar Roasted Tomatoes from Healthy Seasonal Recipes

-If it's still to hot for soup in your neck of the woods, try this cool and creamy green relative from 10th Kitchen: Fresh Tomatillo Gazpacho

Do you have a favorite tomato soup recipe? Please tell me about it in the comments below!


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Tomato-y Soups and Stews:

Roasted Yellow Tomato Soup with Halloumi Croutons + Green Harissa Recipe


Soup recipe adapted from Honey & Jam, Harissa from Sprouted Kitchen, who adapted it from Ashley Rodriquez in Food + Wine

Yellow tomatoes make for a pretty, golden soup against a swirl of green harissa and bronzed halloumi, but feel free to use any color tomato here, such as red heirlooms, Romas, San Marzanos, or dry-farmed Early Girls. The soup is good on its own should you lack the time to make the harissa and/or croutons. If a heatwave strikes, leave the soup cold and add a splash of sherry vinegar, and this soup becomes a creamy gazpacho. For a vegan version, use coconut milk or cream in place of the heavy cream and make traditional croutons with cubed bread instead of halloumi. 

Shallots vary in size and I never know how to quantify them. Sometimes two big ones are attached; I count these as two separate shallots. Mine were roughly the size of a golf ball or a little bigger. Don't worry too much if you lack any of the spices called for here (saffron, smoked paprika, fennel seed, cumin, or coriander). The soup will still be lovely if you need to leave any or all of them out.

The harissa recipe will make more than you'll need for the soup by about double; extra harissa is fabulous on nearly anything: sandwiches, quesadillas, grilled or roasted vegetables, fish or meats, eggs, or grain bowls. Be careful when handling the chile for the harissa. Taste before adding it all if you are sensitive to spice, and wash your hands and under your nails thoroughly with soap and water after handling the cut chile lest it burn your skin.

Makes about 6 servings

For the Roasted Yellow Tomato Soup:
4 pounds yellow tomatoes (I used a mix of various heirloom varieties and cherry tomatoes), cut into large slices
8 medium shallots, peeled and quartered
1 medium fennel bulb, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
4 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon fine or kosher sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
a pinch (about 1/8 teaspoon) of saffron threads, crumbled
 
For the Green Harissa:
2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup cilantro leaves (soft stems ok), washed and spun dry
1/2 cup parsley leaves, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup mint leaves, washed and spun dry
1 jalapeño or serrano chile (more or less to taste), stemmed, halved, and seeded
juice of 1 large lemon, to taste
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup good olive oil

For the Halloumi Croutons:
12-16 ounces halloumi cheese
1-2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee, for frying

Make the soup:
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 400ºF.

Divide the prepared tomatoes, shallots, fennel, and garlic among two rimmed baking sheets, and sprinkle with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast the vegetables until they are golden and soft, about 30 minutes. Let cool.

Scrape the vegetables and their juices into a food processor, and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape the mixture into a large soup pot and stir in the water, cream, saffron, and smoked paprika. Bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the soup is thickened to your liking, about 20 minutes. Taste, adding more salt if you like. The flavors will continue to blend as the soup sits. It keeps well, cooled and refrigerated airtight, for up to 5 days.

Meanwhile, make the green harissa:
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, cilantro, mint, parsley, chile, lemon juice, cumin, fennel, coriander and salt, and pulse until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil in a steady stream. Taste, adding more salt, lemon, or chile if you like. Scrape into a jar, cover, and chill until ready to use. The harissa will keep for up to a week or two, though it's brightest when freshly made. 

Make the halloumi croutons:
When ready to serve the soup, heat a thin film of oil in a skillet set over a medium flame. Cut the halloumi into 1" chunks and add them to the hot pan. Cook until golden on the first side, 3-5 minutes, then turn and cook on a second side until golden.

Serve the soup:
Ladle warm soup into bowls and top with a swirl of harissa and several cubes of halloumi. Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Berry Chèvre Cheesecake Squares with Gluten-Free Pistachio Crust, and 5 years of Bojon

Fresh goat cheese and cream cheese make up these cheesecake bars studded with fresh raspberries and blueberries, all perched atop a gluten-free pistachio shortbread crust.


Today is the fifth blogiversary of The Bojon Gourmet! I can't believe how the time has flown by. Five years ago, I wanted to share a recipe I'd developed for sourdough crackers made with spelt flour, and Jay encouraged me to put the recipe up on a blog. (Thanks, hon!) I loved creating and sharing recipes so much that I'm still at it five years later, just as obsessively as ever.


I'm most grateful for all of the amazing people I've met, virtually and in the flesh, through writing this blog. A huge thanks to everyone who reads, makes, comments, and shares! It is your support that keeps me thinking up recipes, making them 20 times until I get them just right, taking pictures of my dinner until it's cold, and (sometimes) forgoing watching Arrested Development in favor of writing late-night posts. I could do it without you... but I probably wouldn't – that would be no fun at all. 


This is an extra-fun month for me not only due to reaching the five year mark, but also because recipes of mine are featured in print for the first time since I won a recipe contest eight years ago. (And then they didn't even print my actual recipe. More on that here.) Along with a host of scrumptious Fall recipes, Go Gluten-Free's September/October issue boasts two of my favorite Fall libations (Pomegranate Margaritas and Homemade Irish Cream Liqueur) in a spread called In Good Spirits.


Additionally, my first cookbook review was published in Blikki magazine yesterday. Turn to page 30 to read about my most-loved book of the year, Vibrant Food by Kimberly Hasslebrink.


To celebrate the blogiversary last weekend, we made some of our favorite late-summer dishes and invited a few friends over to help us eat them. There was Melon with Feta, Mint and Lime,






and a few local cheeses, pickles, olives, and crackers. (In fact, altogether we had nine different types of cheese, including the two in the dessert. Fitting.) Amelia, my dear friend and biggest fan, brought a Farmer's Market Cornbread




(And noting that the fifth anniversary is known as the "wooden anniversary," she also brought me a beautiful teak board that I can't wait to shoot food on.) Other friends showered me with flowers, champagne, and about 20 pounds of home-grown concord grapes (recipe coming soon), proving that blogiversaries are way better than regular birthdays.


For dessert I made a version of the Huckleberry Chèvre Cheesecake Squares that I developed four years ago to celebrate my site's first birthday. Huckleberries are in season from now until late November, but we haven't yet had time to forage for them, so I used raspberries and blueberries instead, which are still in season here and work beautifully. I upped the goat cheese, and traded the all-purpose flour in the crust for a neutral-tasting blend of millet, sweet rice flour, and cornstarch. 


The protein in the nuts joins forces with the sticky rice flour to help the crust hold together, and it bakes into a buttery-salty shortbread that is the perfect foil for tangy cheese topping and sweet-tart berries. Vanilla bean and lemon zest give these tiny sweets a big, bold cheesecake flavor. 


Many thanks to all of the loving and supportive readers in my life, and especially Jay, who not only wins the artisan bread and brings home the pasture-raised bacon, but also does the dishes.


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One year ago:
Two years ago:
Three years ago:
Four years ago:
Five years ago:

Berry Chèvre Cheesecake Squares with Gluten-Free Pistachio Crust


Adapted from my Huckleberry Chèvre Cheesecake Squares which were adapted from Williams Sonoma Baking

These bars take about 1 1/2 hours total to assemble and bake, plus an additional 4 hours to cool and chill. They are excellent the day of and after baking, when the crust is still crisp, but keep well for up to 4 or 5 days in the fridge.

These will be extra delicious if made with high-quality cream cheese and fresh goat's cheese; I prefer Sierra Nevada cheeses, which are free from gums and stabilizers. To quickly warm your cheeses and eggs to room temperature (essential to achieving non-lumpy cheesecake), place a towel on top of your preheating oven. Scoop the cheeses into a metal bowl, and the eggs (cracked or not) in another bowl. Place the bowls on the towel while you make your crust. Rotate occasionally, and remove when they reach room temperature to the touch.

The bars are easily made in a food processor. Lacking one, you can chop the nuts finely by hand, and mix both the crust and filling in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or by hand in a large bowl. For a more pronounced goat cheesy flavor, substitute another 2 - 4 ounces of chevre for an equal amount of cream cheese. For thicker bars, bake the cake in a 9" square pan and increase the baking time by about 10 minutes.

Makes 24 medium-sized bars

For the Crust:
3/4 cup shelled pistachios (I used raw ones,  but toasted ones are fine, too), plus extra for decorating (optional)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons millet flour
1/2 cup sweet white rice flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup organic blonde cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 3/4" chunks

For the Filling:
6 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature
10 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup organic blonde cane sugar
2 tablespoons sweet white rice flour
seeds from 1 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 small lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries (plus extra for decorating)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (plus extra for decorating)

Prepare things:
Position a rack in the bottom-center of your oven and preheat to 350º. Line a 9 x 12" rimmed baking pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil cut to fit width-wise, leaving an overhang on each side. (This will help you lift the cake out of the pan after baking, making cutting easier.)

Make the crust:
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the pistachios, millet flour, rice flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture begins to form large, coarse crumbs, and holds together when squeezed, about 30 seconds. Dump the mixture into the lined pan, and press firmly and evenly with your hands.

Bake the crust until golden and puffed, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently press the crust down with the back of a spoon, or the bottom of a flat measuring cup; this will help it hold together when sliced.
Make the filling:
Meanwhile, wipe out the food processor. Combine the cheeses, sugar, flour, vanilla bean seeds, lemon zest and salt and blend just until smooth, about 5-10 seconds. Add the eggs, process until smooth, then scrape down the bowl. Add the cream and process until smooth. Scrape once more, and blend again if at all lumpy.

Scatter the berries evenly over the cooled crust, and pour the filling over, distributing it evenly. Bake the cheesecake until the center is set, 15-25 minutes. It should wobble like jell-o when you shake it gently, but not be watery or liquid. Remove to a cooling rack and let cool 1 hour, then cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours, or overnight, until firm and cold.

To slice the bars, use the parchment paper handles to carefully lift the cheesecake out of the pan (it may crack a little bit, but this is not the end of the world.) Place on a large cutting board. Fill a pitcher with hot tap water and have some paper towels handy, or an old (but clean!) dish towel that you don't mind getting stained. With a large, sharp chef's knife dipped in the hot water and wiped completely dry between each cut, cut the cheesecake into 24 squares (or whatever size you like).

Place each square in a standard paper muffin liner if you like, and top with a pistachio, halved raspberry, and a blueberry.

Store the bars in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four or five days.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sangrìa Verde {Vinho Verde, Cucumber, Melon, Mint, Basil + Lime}


I've long been a fan of dry, sparkly Italian Prosecco, so I was thrilled when I discovered its softer relative, Portugese Vinho Verde. If Prosecco is like the Italian language – brash, a little sassy, and perfect for telling someone off, vinho verde is like Portugese – subtle and velvety on the tongue, like a whisper.


True to its name, vinho verde has a green tinge with a dry acidity and subtle fizz. It is the definition of "slightly frizzante," (or whatever the Portugese equivalent would be) and just the thing to quaff on a warm summer's day before your siesta.


Since discovering this spirit a few years ago, I've had a mind to turn it into a sangrìa verde filled with all the green things of late summer: cubes of fragrant melon, slices of slender cucumber, sweet green grapes, tart limes, and herbaceous basil and mint. I thought I'd sweeten it with a touch of simple syrup and fortify it with a splash of white rum.


Years went by when sangrìa verde existed only in my mind. Other green beverages and sangrìas were realized, but this one kept getting put on hold.


After making Cucumber Melon Caprese Salads, I found myself with the majority of ingredients needed for this drink, so I finally gave it a go. Thinking that St. Germain makes everything better, and that it would pair nicely with the floral melon, I used it in place of simple syrup and rum. I muddled, I steeped, I strained, I stirred. Finally after all these years, I took a sip of my creation.


And... it was just ok. You could say I was only slightly frizzante about it. The flavors were muddy. Instead of making everything taste like magic and flowers the way it usually does, the St. Germain just masked the delicate melon and mint, refusing to come forward on its own no matter how much I added. I had to force myself and Jay to drink the rest, and that is really saying something. "Maybe it's just not hot enough to be drinking this," Jay said kindly while choking down a glass.


I almost gave up on sangrìa verde, thinking that perhaps it was a thing that was better in my head than in reality. But when a mini "heat wave" (75 degrees) rolled into San Francisco this week, I decided to give it one last try. I made the recipe as simple as possible, sweetening it with a quick sugar syrup, and skipping the muddling in favor of simply combining all the ingredients and letting them hang out together for a bit before pouring it into glasses.


This sangrìa verde exceeded my expectations. It was clean and crisp, a little floral and deeply refreshing.
  

I like that you can taste all the different components: wine, cucumber, melon, a little sweetness from the grapes, herbaceous topnotes from fresh mint and basil. The rum gives it a bit of oomph without interfering with the other flavors, and a bit of lime juice sharpens things up. My favorite part is scooping up bits of crisp, ice cold cucumber and chilly grapes to eat when I finish a glass. 


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Green drinks:
Matcha Mint Juleps 
Fall Greens Smoothie 
Mint and Celery Soda 

One year ago:
Rosemary Peach Maple Leaf Cocktail
Two years ago:
Three years ago:

Sangrìa Verde {with Vinho Verde, Cucumber, Melon, Mint, Basil + Lime}

I like this sangrìa best on the day it's made, as the fruit and vegetables will discolor after a day or two in the fridge and the drink will taste less bright and well-defined. Serve glasses with small spoons for scooping up the booze-soaked goodies. Feel free to up the rum for more boozy oomph, or leave it out altogether for lightweights. 

Makes 4-6 servings

1/4 cup organic blonde cane sugar
1/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup cubed green melon
1/2 cup thinly sliced cucumber
1/2 cup halved green table grapes
1 lime, thinly sliced
juice of 1 lime
2 sprigs mint, plus some pretty leaves for garnish
2 sprigs basil, plus some pretty leaves for garnish
1 (750mL) bottle Vinho Verde (or dry white or sparkling wine such as Prosecco), chilled
1/2 cup white rum
ice
sparkling water

In a small, heat-proof jar or bowl, stir together the sugar and boiling water to dissolve the sugar.

In a large vessel, such as a 2-quart mason jar, pitcher, or punch bowl, combine the cucumber, melon, grapes, lime slices, lime juice, mint, and basil. Pour in the Vinho Verde, rum, and simple syrup. Stir gently to combine, then cover and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours.

To serve, fill tall glasses with ice. Pour in sangrìa and spoon in some of the fruity bits. Top off each glass with a spritz of fizzy water and some pretty mint and basil leaves to garnish, and serve.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Poppy Seed Pluot Financiers {Gluten-Free}


As someone who loves making ice cream but detests anything vaguely meringue-like, I was thrilled the day I discovered financiers. I was in college, procrastinating art history homework by leafing through the Everyday Greens cookbook when I happened upon an Almond Brown Butter Cake with Plums. I'm pretty sure that cake was responsible not only for the B I got in said class, and also for contributing to my freshmen 15.


While I retained few of the dates and concepts that I learned while "studying" at UCSC (evidenced by a recent tour of the SF MOMA during which I walked from piece to piece declaring, "Now this piece was a big 'F you' to the art world!" over and over again), I never forgot the wonder of the financier, particularly its happy use of only egg whites, and lots of 'em.


Since custard-based ice creams require the use of egg yolks, I am always left with a surplus of whites. I usually put them in a jar, saying to myself "this time I'll definitely use them." Then into the fridge they go only to be moved from shelf to shelf until, during a cleaning binge, I tip them down the drain, wracked with guilt upon remembering the ridiculously expensive pasture-raised eggs from whence they came. I wish I could say that this egg white angst curbs my ice cream making habit. But clearly this is not the case. So financiers regularly come to my rescue.

Financiers got their name from a bakery near the Paris stock exchange where the golden butter-filled cakes were baked in the shape of gold bricks. The batter contains no leavening, save for the egg whites, and they cook into tender little pastries made chewy from plenty of almond meal. What really makes financiers taste like magic fairy puffs is the high ratio of butter, browned with vanilla bean until it smells toasty and sweet. 


My favorite financier recipe comes from The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chanterelle, a beautifully photographed baking book from pastry chef Kate Zuckerman that's filled not only with scores of treats that use up extra egg whites, but also with baking science, killer recipes, and serious food porn. Her financier recipe is a little simpler than the one from Everyday Greens, less sweet and a bit more dense, which I like. I've tweaked this one many times and, though the ratios seem like they shouldn't make a successful cake batter, they always turn out beautifully. This version was no exception in spite of my many bastardizations.


Financiers can be dressed up any which way: topped with seasonal fruit, flecked with chocolate, or made with different types of nuts, flours, or sweeteners. Since brown butter goes so famously with stone fruit, I topped these with slices of ripe red pluots from Woodleaf Farm by way of the Berkeley Farmer's Market. Poppy seeds steeped in the brown butter add their elusive flavor along with a bit of pleasant crunch, and muscovado sugar and oat flour add even more warm richness. 


Because of their high ratio of protein from egg whites and nuts, financiers are easy to make sans gluten, and their texture stays just as pillowy as their wheaten counterparts. With all that butter, health food they are not, but at least they're small and deeply satisfying. I tried not to think about the tablespoon of butter that each cake contained as I devoured two, warm from the oven, fragrant with vanilla and dripping with gooey plum slices. I'd prefer my cake topped with baked plums than a slick of sugary frosting any day. (That just reminded me of another use for egg whites that I'm none too keen on: buttercream.)


Once the butter is browned and the eggs separated, the batter gets quickly blitzed in a food processor and divided among lined muffin pans. They are as easy to make as muffins, but more like a cake in flavor. I like them in the afternoon with a cup of tea, though they could just as easily be served warm, with a scoop of ice cream on the side (crème fraîche would be my first choice). In fact, ice cream would be a good choice if you needed something to do with those extra egg yolks.


As summer draws to a close, I hope you get to realize your homemade ice cream dreams and make the most of summer's produce. (I know I feel a bit like a hamster on a wheel, trying to shove as much summer produce in my cheek pouches as I possibly can.)


Otherwise, I imagine these would be equally lovely topped with ripe pear slices, persimmons, or poached quince.


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Plum Love:

Fancier Financiers: 

One year ago:

Poppy Seed Pluot Financiers {Gluten-Free}


These little buttery cakes could really be topped with any fruit: berries, figs, nectarines, apricots, plums, peaches, cherries, pears, or poached quince, to name a bunch. Smallish pluots, sliced thinly, fit perfectly atop muffin-sized cakes, and they bake into jammy, glazed slices, their tartness offsetting the sweet cakes. 

Steeping poppy seeds in the warm butter helps to draw out their mysterious, nutty flavor. They give the finished cakes a crunch that I find completely addictive. If you prefer, you can make this with almond flour in place of the sliced almonds (use the weight measurement for accuracy) and mix the batter by hand in a large bowl. If gluten isn't an issue, you can replace the flours with 1/2 cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour, taking care to agitate the batter minimally so as not to develop the glutens. If gluten is an issue, be sure to use certified gluten-free ingredients (particularly oat flour and sugars).

This batter uses 5 large egg whites. Whites keep for up to a week or two in the refrigerator, or they can be frozen for several months. If you're starting with whole eggs, use the yolks in an ice cream or custard such as crème caramel or crème brulée. The financier batter can keep airtight and refrigerated for several days if you don't wish to bake them all at once. The finished cakes are best the day of baking, but will keep for a day or two at room temperature, or longer refrigerated. Brush the plums with a bit of warm honey or plum jam if you wish to restore their sheen.

All ounce measurements are by weight. 

Makes 12 small but rich cakes

1 1/2 sticks (.75 cup / 6 ounces / 170 grams) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
3 tablespoons (1 ounce / 30 grams) poppy seeds
3/4 cup (2.25 ounces / 65 grams) sliced almonds (or whole or slivered almonds)
1/2 cup (2 ounces / 60 grams) gluten-free oat flour
2 tablespoons (.5 ounces / 15 grams) sweet white rice flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces / 60 grams) powdered sugar
1/3 cup (2 ounces / 60 grams) unrefined cane sugar (such as Alter Eco's muscobado), or coconut sugar, or light or dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup (6 ounces / 175 mL) egg whites (about 5 large)
6 medium pluots or plums, ripe but firm (1 pound / 450 grams)
1-2 tablespoons coarse turbinado or granulated sugar, for sprinkling

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Line a standard muffin pan with paper liners (alternatively, grease the pans with softened butter and dust with oat flour, tapping out the extra.)

Melt the butter with the vanilla pod and scrapings in a medium saucepan over a medium flame. Continue cooking until the butter turns golden and smells nutty, 5-10 minutes, swirling occasionally.

Meanwhile, place the poppy seeds in a heatproof measuring cup. When the butter has browned, pour it into the cup with the poppy seeds. This will stop the cooking and enhance the flavor of the seeds. Set aside to cool at least 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod (you can rinse it, let it dry, and use it to make vanilla extract).

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor combine the almonds, oat flour, rice flour, powdered sugar, muscobado sugar, and salt. Process until the almonds are finely ground. Blend in the egg whites until combined. With the motor running, pour in the cooled brown butter, leaving the poppy seeds in the bottom. (This helps the butter emulsify into the batter.) Turn off the motor, and stir in the poppy seeds and any remaining butter with a flexible spatula. (It helps to remove the blade.) The batter will be quite fluid. Divide the batter among the lined muffin cups; it will come about halfway up the sides.

Halve the plums and remove the pits. Place a half cut-side down, and cut  with a sharp, serrated knife into 1/4" thick slices, discarding the two end pieces. Repeat with the other plums. Fan four or so slices atop each financier, and sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar.

Bake the financiers until they are puffed, golden on top, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool until warm; the cakes are still cooking from residual heat.

Serve the financiers warm or at room temperature.