The ultimate nostalgia trip – Florentines need to be crispy but light, held together with a whisper of caramel yet sufficiently thick to hold nuts, cherries and sultanas. I am a purist – almonds or nothing. Neither do I use candied peel – I simply can’t stand the texture or taste! It probably goes back to a bad experience in childhood – like so many things; rice pudding, semolina…ovaltine….the list is endless. The trick to keep the Florentines round is to use a circular cookie cutter – as the mixture melts and spread – lift out the tray and tame the shape with the cutter. Florentines are never going to be perfectly round unless they are made in a factory or by somebody in a baking competition. However keeping them roughly circular does make them much easier to ‘chocolate’.
I often bake the Florentine biscuits and store them overnight in an airtight tin (between layers of greaseproof paper or parchment) before coating them with chocolate. This is not in any way essential – it is just that I like to have a clear kitchen before I do the messy chocolate thing! I use the microwave to melt the chocolate (approx 1 minute on mid heat on my microwave) The rule is that shorter is better – so experiment. If you prefer the traditional method, then put the broken choocolate pieces in a bowl. Balance it on top of a pan of boiling water – use a small silicon spatula to stir the chocolate as it melts. I use dark chocolate of 80% solids – but others may prefer milk chocolate – this is not Great British Bake Off – there are no rules and regulations. Just use which ever chocolate you prefer. I spread the flat side of each Florentine and then lift each one onto a wire cooler – if you have enough fridge space then this ensures the chocolate hardens really quickly.
A good Florentine is crispy, decadent and the nuts and cherries should be wreathed in just enough chocolate coating. Of course, if you don’t get it right the first time…you can always eat the ‘mistakes’ and start all over again! Here is the recipe
70g glace cherries
100g sultanas or large raisins
200g flaked almonds
50g plain flour
160g castor sugar
50ml double cream/soured cream or creme fraiche (entirely personal preference here)
200g quality dark chocolate (chopped)
5cm cookie cutter to help shape the Florentines
Before you start – line three baking sheets with non-stick parchment paper.
- Preheat oven to 170C/325F/gas 3
- Dice the glace cherries using a sharp knife
- Place the chopped cherries, sultanas, flaked almonds and flour in a large bowl. Mix around with your hands.
- In a large saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter and sugar. Remove the pan from the heat once this is done. Add the cream and stir in thoroughly.
- Add all the dry ingredients to the pan and stir thoroughly- everything should be as evenly mixed as possible.
- Spoon walnut shaped pieces onto each baking sheet. Space them well apart and gently press down the mounds with a spoon.
- Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes or until they have a golden glow. Re-shape the Florentines into circles during the baking. Allow the Florentines to cool hard on the tray before you attempt to move them.
- Transfer them to a wire rack to cool further and repeat the process until all the Florentines are cooked.
- Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Remove form the heat and allow to cool, stirring occasionally until it has reached a spreading consistency. (You can also melt the chocolate at medium heat in a microwave – I use a burst of 50 secs followed by one of 40 secs)
- Brush the chocolate on the underside of the Florentines using a small silicon spatula. You can make wavy-line decoration with a fork if you wish. I prefer to leave them as they are.
- If you wish to keep some for later – it is better to leave them without the chocolate and store the bases in an airtight tin between layers of parchment.
If you prefer you could always use milk chocolate. I have also made these Florentines with cranberries and crystalised ginger in place of the cherries and used white chocolate to coat them. Just imagine the variations you could try!