I have always loved the flavour of bergamot without really knowing what a bergamot actually was until a few years ago. It was the citrusy, floral notes in my afternoon earl grey tea, it was a scent in body lotions and perfumes, but I had never seen a bergamot, let alone smelled or tasted a fresh one.
Then one day there they were. They didn't look like much, just small yellowish green citrus fruits but they were so fragrant I had to buy them. The scent of fresh bergamot is extraordinary. Spicy, juicy and very floral. Like coriander and lemongrass and lavender and black pepper all in one.
On its own bergamot is lovely. I love it instead of lemon in a classic tarte au citron with billowing toasted meringue on top. Or in a bittersweet thin cut marmalade. But with bergamot you also get to amp up either the citrusy notes or the floral if you pair it with other flavours. Bergamot with coriander seeds, basil, yuzu and other citrusy ingredients will highlight those flavours, whereas jasmine, lavender, rosewater, orange blossom and chamomile brings out the floral notes.
I chose dried chamomile blossoms for their honey like sweetness and toasted the almond flour to bring out the flavour. Combined with the bergamot the financiers tasted kind of like I imagine a meadow on a warm summer day. Sweet, floral, warm, comforting. It was perfect on a gray, rainy day in Copenhagen.
If you can't find bergamot, simply substitute lemons. Though it want be the same flavours in the cake, lemon and chamomile is a classic combination for a reason.
Bergamot financiers with chamomile and toasted almonds
Makes 16 financiers
1 tsp. chamomile tea
75g almond flour
150g confectioners sugar
40g all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
4 egg whites
Pinch of salt
Finely grated zest of 1 bergamot
Few Tbsp. of almond slivers
Preheat oven to 180C and spread the almond flour on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until fragrant and toasted golden brown. Set aside to cool.
Generously butter the mold you are using (I used a 5cm round silicone mold, but the classic is a rectangular financier mold).
Heat butter with chamomile tea in a small pan over medium heat until the milk solids begins to brown and the melted butter smells like toasted hazelnuts, remove the pan from heat and set aside to cool.
I ground my almond flour with the confectioners sugar to get a finer texture in the finished cake, but feel free to use the almond flour as is. In that case sift the confectioners sugar, baking powder, salt and flour over the almond flour and whisk together. If you process the flour with the confectioners sugar sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the almond mixture. Gently whisk in the bergamot zest.
Add egg whites one at a time, whisking until just combined. Be careful not to overwork the batter, as the cakes will be dense and unpleasant to eat.
Sieve off the chamomile blossoms from the butter and whisk the browned butter into the flour mixture. Pour into a piping bag, close and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Heat oven to 180C. Pipe financier batter into the molds, filling roughly halfway. Sprinkle over the almond slivers. Depending on size bake for about 9-12 minutes for smaller cakes or 15-18 minutes for larger. Remove from oven when the cakes are browned and springy.
Cool for a few minutes before unmolding, then cool completely on a wire rack. They are equally delicious warm and at room temperature.