These friands, little French cakes whose elegance and svelteness somehow betray quite how much (burnt) butter is built into their being, look splendid when iced — destined for top ranking on any tiered cake stand — but also work with no icing, in the cookie jar, for grabbing on a whim. They’ll lose their slightly chewy edge after the first day or so, but still taste great. Blueberries or raspberries can be used instead of the blackberries. Don’t use strawberries, though; they are too watery.
¾ cup plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon melted, for brushing
½ cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1¼ cups almond meal
1½ teaspoon ground star anise (or 3 whole star anise, ground in a spice grinder and passed through a fine-mesh sieve)
1/8 teaspoon salt
5¼ ounces egg whites (from 4 large eggs)
Finely grated zest of 1 small orange (1 teaspoon)
18 fresh blackberries, cut in half lengthwise
2 ounces fresh blackberries, plus 24 blackberries, to garnish
¾ tablespoon water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 ⅓ cups confectioners’ sugar
1) Preheat the oven to 425° F. Brush the 12 molds in a regular mufﬁn pan with the melted butter and dust with flour. Tap the pan gently to ensure an even coating of the flour, then turn upside down to remove the excess. Place in the fridge to chill while you make the batter.
2) Place the butter in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until melted. Continue to cook until the butter is foaming, gently swirling the pan from time to time to allow the solids to brown more evenly. You will see dark-brown sediments begin to form on the sides and bottom of the pan. Continue to allow the butter to bubble away until it turns a rich golden brown and smells of toasted nuts and caramel. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes, to allow the burnt solids to collect at the bottom of the pan. Strain through a ﬁne-mesh (or muslin-lined) sieve, discarding the solids. Allow the browned butter to cool slightly before using. It should still be warm when folding into the mix later. If it is too hot, it will cook the egg whites; if it is too cool, it will be difﬁcult to incorporate into the mix.
3) While the butter is cooling, sift the flour, confectioners’ sugar, almond meal, star anise and salt into a bowl. Place the egg whites in a small bowl and use a whisk or fork to froth them up a for a few seconds — you do not need to whisk them completely. Pour the egg whites into the sifted dry ingredients and stir until they are incorporated. Add the orange zest and browned butter and mix until the batter is smooth.
4) Remove the mufﬁn pan from the fridge and ﬁll the molds just over two-thirds of the way up the sides. Place three halved blackberries on top, cut side down, and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 400° F — starting with a high oven temperature and then bringing it down is the way to achieve the lovely brown crust you want — rotate the pan for even cooking and continue to bake for another 8 minutes, until the edges of the friands are golden brown and the centers have a slight peak and spring back when gently prodded. Set aside to cool before removing them from their molds; you might need to use a small knife to help you release the sides.
5) To make the icing, place the 2 ounces blackberries in a small bowl with the water and lemon juice. Use a fork to mash them together, then pass the mixture through a ﬁne-mesh sieve to extract as much fruit juice as possible. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl, pour in the blackberry juice and combine to make a light purple, runny icing; it should just be thick enough to form a thin glaze on the tops of the cakes.
6) Spoon the icing over the cakes, spreading it to the edges so that it runs down the sides. Do this on a rack, if you can, as icing them on a plate or sheet of parchment paper means that the icing will pool at the bottom. Place a couple of fresh blackberries on each friand, set aside for 20–30 minutes to set and then serve.
We use oval molds here, but all sorts of shapes work: jumbo muffin pans, mini-muffin pans or a regular muffin pan.
Without icing, these will keep for up to 4 days. If the weather is warm, store in the fridge and zap in the microwave for a few seconds (literally 3 seconds!) to restore their buttery moisture. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months, then thawed in the fridge and warmed in a 350° F oven for 5 minutes; this will restore their crisp edges, as well. Once iced, they’re best eaten on the same day.