Slab financier with pear and slightly fancy fennel sugar

Katrina Meynink swaps dainty individual financier fingers for a slab.
Katrina Meynink swaps dainty individual financier fingers for a slab. Photo: Katrina Meynink

I can feel the collective horror of pastry chefs when they read that I didn't beat the eggwhites and I didn't peel my fruit for this lazy cook's take on a glorious French treat. This kind of elevenses cake is like one big financier without all the mould-greasing, egg-beating, aeration and angst. Why would you peel the pears when the skin cooks gloriously, helps the fruit keep its shape and adds to the low-effort vibe of this goodness?

Ingredients

185g unsalted butter

½ tbsp vanilla bean paste

25g almond meal*

50g buckwheat flour*

75g plain flour

pinch salt

155g icing sugar

5 eggwhites

¼ cup maple syrup

2 large packam pears, cored and quartered

Fennel sugar

2 tbsp raw sugar

½ tbsp fennel seeds

Method

Preheat oven to 175C fan-forced (195C conventional) and line an 8-cup capacity baking dish with baking paper.

Add the butter to a saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, giving it the odd swirl until it is brown and tanned in colour and gives off just the slightest nutty whiff. Remove from heat and stir through the vanilla bean paste. Set aside.

Add the flours, salt and icing sugar in a bowl and use a fork to break up any clumps. Add the eggwhites and maple syrup and whisk until it is lump-free.

Scrape in the butter – there will be a few gnarly bits that will have collected on the base of your saucepan, get these in there as well. Give it a gentle loving stir.

Pour the batter into the dish. Gently add the pear pieces in a single layer and give them a squish downward until you hit the bottom, it works better having these submerged a little in the batter (the tops will remain exposed).

Pop in the oven and cook for 30-35 minutes, until deeply golden on top and the pear still has some resistance when pushed. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for five minutes before cutting.

While the slab is cooling, quickly add the sugar and fennel seeds to a mortar and pestle. Give it a quick grind then scatter the sugar over the financier and serve straight from the dish or at room temperature, with cream or ice-cream (optional).

Tips: I made a quick fennel sugar – just some raw sugar and fennel seeds ground for a whole five seconds with a mortar and pestle to throw at it, but this is just as good without it. I did it mainly for visual effect, a bit of textural crunch, and because I believe pear and fennel are the Sonny and Cher of food pairings, so I couldn't let the opportunity pass.

*I used flour dregs and I tested this a few times using different dregs so interchange with whatever flours you have on hand; the outcome is mostly the same – use something with a little nutty undertone (think almond, hazelnut, buckwheat, spelt) and cook that butter until it is superbly tanned – it adds wondrous flavour.