Very Small Anna

Toasted Almond and Strawberry Friands

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[Photograph: Anna Markow]

When I first got into restaurant work, I was prepared to work subserviently for years. If you know me personally, you're probably laughing. But I was told that's how it is, that's how it always has been, that's how it always will be. You work hard, keep your head down, take the abuse and pay your dues and maybe in a decade, if you're lucky and haven't burned out completely, someone will let you play chef. Sound depressing? It is.

The problem with this system, which I have observed in more than one line of work, is that years of experience does not necessarily teach you leadership skills. Nor does it make you creative. But I got incredibly lucky about a year into my career (a year and a half if you count pastry school) and was chosen for my first pastry chef gig based solely on the merits of my creativity. With an executive chef who was excited about food and always open to collaborate on ideas, I grew quickly and learned that there is room in the restaurant world for those of us who just can't bite their tongues and turn the other cheek.

I held that job for over a year and a half, but it abruptly and unexpectedly ended when the owner decided to downsize, and I went out into the world and decided to try to pick up where I left off in fine dining. I trailed at a restaurant that I always thought I wanted to work for, but a few hours in I found myself being talked down to instead of engaged. I apologized to the pastry chef and left.

Eventually I ended up at the job I just left, where I had another experience with bad leadership, and am excited to move on to a job where I was once again chosen for my passion and creativity. The scones helped me land the job; these friands are the first thing I made specifically upon request by the owner. My husband and I went to eat dinner at the restaurant the other night and I brought along these, plus a few more classic ones, to give to the chef.

Friands are incredibly simple, easy cakelets that keep well in both baked and unbaked forms. A perfect moist foil for a cup of tea or coffee, they're closely related to financiers and madeleines and are very easy to adapt to any taste. Classically made with almond flour, you can get a richer, more unique flavor and lovely color by pre-toasting the almond flour. You can also substitute any other nut flour, add citrus zest or spices or even swap out the basic melted butter for another liquid fat like coconut oil or olive oil (or perhaps even bacon fat, if you're super adventurous).

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Toasted Almond and Strawberry Friands »

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