Now that the days are getting shorter again, the light outside mostly a dull grey and the wind howling past my window each night, there’s nothing more satisying than turning on that oven and getting baking! Finally I have an excuse again to use cinnamon in almost all my creations, work with my beloved candied orange peel and roast tons and tons of almonds for all kinds of recipes. The run up to Christmas is upon us, and oh, how I love it.
One of my favourite recipes in these early days of November is that of Florentines. Not quite too Christmasy yet, they’re the perfect treat to kick-start the festive baking season! Florentines are little round almond biscuits, studded with dice of candied orange peel and glacé cherries. They’re so incredibly satisfying because of their chewiness, which comes from the caramel base that the almonds are mixed with. Once baked, you let the Florentines cool down, and then brush one side with dark chocolate. Heavenly. ★
makes about 30
25g unsalted butter
45g caster sugar
45g brown sugar
15g plain flower
150ml double cream
100g flaked almonds
90g candied orange peel, chopped
50g glacé cherries or dried cranberries
100g dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 190° celsius.
Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan, add the sugar and dissolve without letting it catch. Note: if you’re doing this on a gas cooker (or on a flame), please follow these instructions: start by melting the butter and sugar in a bain marie. For this, pour boiling water into a saucepan, place a second, heavy-bottomed saucepan with the butter and sugar into the boiling water. This prevents the butter sugar mix from burning, since the flame is usually too hot for this mix to melt slowly. Once the mix is melted, add the flour and stir (a bit like making a roux), take the saucepan out of the bain marie and place onto the gas hob. Now caramelize the mix, whilst constantly stirring (so it doesn’t catch). You’ll notice that it starts caramelizing when it turns golden and becomes increasingly darker. I normally take it off the heat once it’s golden. If you prefer a stronger, caramelized taste, let it caramelize longer.
Take the saucepan off the heat and pour the double cream into the caramel mix. Stir and briefly put back onto the hob so that it becomes a smooth mix without any lumps.
Take off the heat and add the almonds, candied orange peel and glacé cherries (or dried cranberries) to the caramel. Mix it well so all the ingredients are covered in caramel.
Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Drop teaspoonfuls of the florentine mixture onto the baking paper, leaving enough space between them since they will slightly spread out. Bake the florentines for 10-12 minues or until the edges are golden brown.
Take the florentines out of the oven and let them rest for about 5 minutes until they’ve cooled down a bit and are firm enough to transfer onto a wire rack. Let them completely cool down until you brush on the chocolate.
Once all the florentines are baked and have cooled down, melt the dark chocolate in a bain marie. Pour boiling water into a saucepan, place a second, heavy-bottomed saucepan with the chocolate into the boiling water. Stir until all the chocolate has melted. Brush the melted chocolate onto the bottom, flat side of the florentines and let them dry, chocolate-covered side up. You can use a fork to paint wavy lines into the chocolate while it’s still wet.
The florentines will keep for a week in a tin, but I doubt they’re going to last that long.