Friands, made mostly out of ground almonds, rise into a moist, dense cake by way of including whipped egg whites in the batter, which make them a good go-to recipe for me because I inevitably have a lot of egg whites sitting around waiting to be used, and at least some form of frozen berry or tinned fruit stashed away to top them with. This weekend I conveniently happened not to have either of those things but still went ahead and made friands, being in a rush to go to my Dad’s place for Fathers’ Day and not wishing to turn up empty-handed.You might wonder why I did not just think ahead a little and have something organised prior to the morning-of, but sometimes I just abandon all sense and leave things up to chance, uncomfortably close to the moment of reckoning. My final wedding dress fitting springs to mind as I write this…
So, to get to the point of this mundane little tale, I did happen to have some walnuts and thus used them as the defining feature of these particular friands. And having tried them, I don’t think I’ll go back to using any old fruit or berries I can lay hands on (at least not until I run out of those walnuts), because the crunchy, toasted nuts on top were in perfect contrast with the sweet, spongy cake aspect, and the maple caramel that I liberally doused them with soaked in around the edges and went all sticky and delicious as the friands cooled down. My favourite part of a friand is this wee halo of chewy, crisp, cake that they get around their top edge, and coated in caramel this was elevated to even greater levels.
Whenever I go to my Dad’s, obligatory photos must be taken; he has embraced digital cameras with an obscene level of enthusiasm, so we sat for a picture together at the garden table while my stepmum brandished the camera at us. While I was patiently grimacing at the lens I became aware of something hovering in my peripheral vision and jerked around thinking it was a huge bee, of which I am mortally afraid, but it was only bloody Dad mugging for the camera holding a half-eaten friand right near my face. Parents, am I right? I guess I should graciously take that as a compliment on my baking and feel happy that he is proud of me. He also knows how to work this blog now, so I expect I’ll be getting a phone call shortly.
Maple Walnut Friands
- 125g Butter
- 100g / 1 C Ground almonds
- 250g / 1 2/3 C Icing sugar
- 113g / 3/4 C Soft flour
- ½ tsp Baking powder
- 5 Egg whites
- 12 or so whole walnuts
- 1/4 C Brown sugar
- 1/4 C Maple syrup
- 25g Butter
- 1 ½ tsp Cream
- Preheat your oven to 180°C.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan until it goes a dark golden colour, almost getting a little bit brown. Doing this adds more depth of flavour than just straight-up meting the butter. Leave it to cool down.
- Sift the icing sugar and flour into a large bowl and add the ground almonds and baking powder.
- Whisk the egg whites in a stand mixer or with a hand beater until they form ‘stiff peaks’ – a thick white foam.
- Add the egg whites and melted butter to the dry ingredients. The butter needs to have cooled down before you do this, or the heat will damage the egg white before your batter is evenly mixed.
- Gently fold the mixture together with a spatula. You will lose some of the aeration from the egg whites by doing this but you don’t want to completely undo the process of whipping them by beating the hell out of the batter.
- Spray a 12-hole muffin or special friand pan (they are classically oval-shaped) very heavily with oil spray. Make sure you cover the base and sides of each hole with plenty of spray. Spoon the batter evenly into the pan and put it into the oven.
- After 3-5 minutes, take the pan out again and put two walnut halves (or one walnut worth of mangled pieces, like I did) onto each of the semi-cooked friands. They will float on the top and become embedded in the cakes as they keep baking.
- Return the friands to the oven to finish baking. They will take another ten minutes or so, and will be done when they are golden brown and are coming away from the sides of the pan at the top.
- While the friands are baking, put the brown sugar and maple syrup in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has melted and the mixture is bubbling.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and throw in the butter, swirling the saucepan around until it has melted. Then add the cream; it is really an arbitrary measurement; I just poured in a ‘splosh’, whatever that might be.
- When the friands are done, take them out of the oven onto a cooling rack and soak the sauce over them with a pastry brush.
- After a few minutes, the friands will have firmed up and steamed a little bit, and should come out of the pan. You might need to poke a knife around their edges to help release them. They are delicious both when warm and once they have cooled down.