Tag Archives: florentines

{7} Florentines

I can never resist a good Florentine. There is something about those golden discs of caramel, studded with cherries, citrus, nuts and ginger and dipped in chocolate that is just magical. They might not strictly be a Christmas treat, but I think they lend themselves very well to this time of year.

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In my younger days, I assumed that Florentines were named after the city of Florence, but it turns out this is only partly true. I should have suspected this to be the case when, years ago, I had a few hours to explore Florence while waiting for a train connection (and hey, it was Florence, I was hardly going to hang out at the station for three hours!). Were there shops groaning under the weight of these biscuits? No. I found one pasticceria selling square Florentines, so I cut my losses and went with one of them. But clearly this was not a biscuit that the citizens of this city were clutching close to their collective bosom.

So what is the truth? Well, this is lost in the mists of time, but the name probably has something to do with the French, and the resemblance of these caramel discs to the gold coins of Florence (incidentally, the British two shilling coin was also known as the florin).

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There are two ways you can make these cookies. If you drop spoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper, they will spread out and you get large, crisp and delicate Florentines (there is enough butter in them to prevent sticking). However, you can drop small teaspoons into the bottom of a non-stick muffin tray – they’ll be slightly thicker but perfectly round so good if you’re giving them as a gift and need to travel with them and want them to look fancy. My pictures are of these “neat” Florentines, and I think they look very pretty.

However…if you’re going to use a muffin tray, please make sure that it is sufficiently non-stick! I assumed non-stick means non-stick. Well, I have two pans. One works like a dream, but the other is anything but non-stick. I found myself trying and ultimately failing to remove one batch from the tray, and had to junk the lot. As the mixture does not need to be baked quickly, you can take your time and do a test version to make sure it works. If it doesn’t, just switch to making the bigger versions using a tray with greaseproof paper. You don’t want all that work to go to waste and they will still taste fantastic!

To finish them off, you can leave them as they are (or “naked Florentines” as I’ve seen them called) but I think you really do need to spread one side with chocolate. If you are a milk or white chocolate fiend, then by all means go for it, but I think it really has to be dark chocolate on these little beauties. I think it works so well with the toasted nuts, ginger and citrus in the biscuits, and why mess with a classic? To make them look impressive, use tempered chocolate for a nice shine and snap, and use a fork to make a wave pattern in the chocolate.

Incidentally, if you think you’ll do a lot of dipping things in chocolate, it really is worth getting a food thermometer. They are not expensive and it means you can get your chocolate to the right temperatures. I’ve tried various methods over the years, but using the thermometer is hands down the easiest and most reliable method I’ve every tried. Never have dull chocolate again!

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In terms of the ingredients, you can play around with them to get a mixture that you like. You can use slivered almonds instead of flaked, or swap some of the almonds for pistachios, hazelnuts or even a handful of jumbo rolled oats. You can also adjust the proportions of cherries, peel, ginger and sultanas, or even omit some of them altogether, but try to keep to the same overall weight. You can even go for a retro vibe if you can get your hands on some green candied angelica – I remember those flecks of bright green in Florentines from my childhood, but it seems to have vanished from most supermarket shelves these days. If you find some – it’s a sign that you should make Florentines!

To make Florentines (makes around 24)

Dry ingredients

• 90g flaked or slivered almonds
• 90g glacé cherries
• 60g candied peel, chopped
• 20g glace ginger
• 30g sultanas
• 15g plain flour

For the caramel

• 45g butter
• 30g soft brown sugar
• 30g white sugar
• 1 tablespoon double cream
• large pinch of salt

To finish

• 150g dark chocolate

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). For large Florentines, line two large baking trays with greaseproof paper rubbed with a little butter. For small Florentines, get a non-stick muffin tray and rub lightly with butter.

2. Prepare the dry ingredients – chop the cherries, peel and ginger as you prefer, then add the almonds, sultanas and flour. Toss so that everything is coated and well-mixed.

3. Make the caramel – in a small saucepan, heat the butter and sugars. Bring to the boil, then take off the heat, add the cream and salt, and stir well. Pour onto the dry ingredients and mix well.

4. Put generous teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto a baking sheet or into a muffin tray. If using a baking sheet, flatten them as much as you can, but leave enough space for them to expand as they bake.

5. Bake the Florentines for 8 minutes, turning around half-way to get an even bake. They will be soft at first, but will harden as they cool.

6. To finish the Florentines, melt the chocolate (for a professional finish, you want to temper it – find out here). Using a teaspoon, spread some chocolate on the underside of each Florentine, then using a fork to make a wave pattern in the chocolate. It might not be obvious at first, but you’ll see it once the chocolate sets.

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Florentines

I have always loved florentines. I like the way they are mostly composed of all the “good bits” with a minimum of anything boring (like, oh, flour) to hold them together. They are, in turn, nutty, citrussy, fruity and chocolately, and might even be a little bit spicy if you’ve made a tweak and used preserved ginger.


Now, the name. Do they come from Florence? The name suggests they might, but that ever reliable source of information, ‘t Interweb, suggests that they are more likely to have a royal pedigree, first appearing in Paris in the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV. I think I like this tale better, makes them sound far more grand. You can imagine Queen Maria Theresa nibbling one as she peers out of the window at Versailles.

One of the major draws of florentines is not just taste, but how they look. Little discs of golden caramel, studded with nuts and jewel-like cherries. In the past, I always used the bright neon red type of glacé cherries, but recently I got all snobbish, and used a more natural variety, which have a deep purple shade. They still tasted nice, but the lack of the vivid colour meant they lost a little something. So another batch made, this time with the more flashy bling-bling glacé cherries, and they did indeed look like they should.

This recipe uses a simple base of butter, golden syrup and flour, but if you find yourself in a part of the world that doesn’t have golden syrup to hand, you can use honey or use caramelised sugar with a dash of cream. They are great either as large cookies, or very small discs of sweet, sticky goodness, so perfect for an afternoon tea or as a petit four for after a fancy-schmancy dinner. And of course don’t feel restricted by the ingredients I have used – candied ginger, different candied peel, glacé angelica, hazelnuts…whatever you like! Be creative!

To make florentines (makes around 16 mini-biscuits):

• 85g butter
• 85g golden syrup
• 30g plain flour
• 60g flaked almonds
• 15g preserved ginger, sliced
• 15g candied peel, finely chopped
• 60g sultanas
• 60g cherries, quartered
• 100g dark chocolate(*)
• 50g milk chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180°C (375°F). Lightly grease a non-stick baking tray(**).

Put the butter and syrup into a pan. Heat until the butter melts, bring to the boil, then add all other ingredients apart from the chocolate. Allow the mixture to cool for 2-3 minutes (it should thicken slightly).

Place teaspoonfuls of the mixture on the baking sheet, flatten slightly and cook for 8-10 minutes until golden (turn the tray half way). Remove from the oven and allow to sit for a few minutes until hard (when they come out of the oven, if they have spread too much, use a spoon to push the edges  back into shape while still soft). Move the florentines to a wire rack to cool completely(***). If they seem oily from all that butter, place the warm biscuits on kitchen paper.

Once the florentines are cool, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, and coat the base of each biscuit. If you like, use a fork to make a wave pattern or swirl on  the base of each florentine.

(*) You can also use all dark chocolate (150g) if you prefer.

(**) Really – I cannot stress how much easier it is to use a non-stick tray!

(***) If the biscuits do not come from the tray when they have hardened, place the tray over a hob flame for a couple of seconds, and then they should come right off!

Note: this recipe is for making small florentines (4-5cm diameter). In the pictures, I doubled the recipe to make cookies that were almost 10cm diameter (tablespoons of the mixture rather than teaspoons) – if you do this, reduce the heat slightly (to 160°C (320°F) and cook until they are golden – and really, watch like a hawk! Don’t let them burn!

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