Easy cake this week for the Heavenly Cakes Bake-Along, right? So why did my eye get caught by that little note in the introduction that said this recipe would be good with praline paste instead of peanut butter? Actually, I saw that mention, googled "praline paste" to see exactly what it is (only being familiar with praline candy), looked briefly at options for obtaining a can of the stuff, and decided it wasn't worth the effort. Reversed that decision when I saw a can at Cake Art....but reversed again when I saw the price of the can was $14! I don't know why that chain of events propelled me into making my own, but it did.
Homemade praline paste should've been a snap: I was using a recipe for half hazelnuts and half almonds, both of which I bought (cheap!), already blanched, at the farmer's market. I mixed sugar and water, heated it until the sugar started to melt, added the toasted nuts and stirred, then left it alone to form a light caramel. Except...I looked over, and I had a pot of nuts and sugar crystals. My sugar solution had crystallized--it's the first time this has happened to me. I tried to rescue my mixture and actually did finish out the recipe, but alas, the result still had some sugar crystals, and instead of a faint grittiness (which Rose warns of in homemade praline paste), mine had a not-so-faint crunch. I'm keeping it, as I feel sure that some sugar crunches in a paste that tastes this good will be fine in the right recipe.
After the crystallization disaster, I surveyed my stock of nuts and decided I could try again. This time I played it safe and added a couple of tablespoons of corn syrup to my sugar mixture, staving off possible crystallization with some invert sugar. I also waited to stir the nuts in until the end, as they were nicely toasted already. Success! Candy-coated hazelnuts and almonds, which I reduced to a smooth paste in the food processor. (Scratching the bowl up as I did so, but it's a small price to pay.) Yes, there's a faint grit to the paste, but in Praline Ingots I don't think anyone would be able to tell.
That was the big adventure, and the mixing of the Ingots was indeed easy. Buerre noisette was mastered earlier (OK, that's a little overstated: 'successfully made before', all right?). Almonds ground with a little powdered sugar, egg whites beaten and the almond mixture beaten in, then the butter drizzled s l o w l y into the batter. I then split my batter in two and stirred peanut butter into half, and praline paste into the other half. They baked up beautifully, though many of mine rose unevenly and had a "high side".
Tasting results: very popular cake. The peanut butter version is very in-your-face peanutty, compare to subtle flavor in the praline version. If tasting both, the praline had to be first or your taste buds only got the peanut butter. I'm wondering if a 100% hazelnut praline would be more distinctive....but no, I'm not going to make another batch. And the praline ones are very nice indeed just as they are.
Edit after reading fellow HCB blogs: count me as another one who missed the instructions to chill the batter for an hour before baking. I didn't see the small heads-up of the "Plan Ahead" note at all--that one I'll consider completely my fault. However, the bit in the recipe directions was just plain confusing, and like at least one other blogger I read it as "chill the extra batter if you can't bake it all at once." I'm flagging the other financier recipes, as I see they are worded almost exactly the same...except the Plum Round Ingots. There the instructions to chill the batter are straightforward.
Also as someone else has mentioned recently, I miss the "understanding" footnotes of other of Rose's cookbooks. In this case, I'd love to know why the batter should chill for an hour. What difference would it have made in the financiers? No, I'm not likely to do my own experiments, but I am curious.