Florentines: every one’s fruit and nut biscuit

Use up the leftover dried fruit from Christmas for these beautiful chocolate treats

Florentines. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

Florentines. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography

 

Florentines always catch my eye in winter time. A beautiful, crisp wafer of fruit and flaked almonds with a chocolate coating. If you have been busy baking over the past number of weeks, you might open your store cupboard and find packets of leftover dried fruits, mixed candied peel and nuts. If so, a batch of Florentines is something to look forward to baking each new year. They take a relatively short time to make – less than an hour including the cooling and setting time. I will admit there is a perilous task involved. Pay attention, as the nuts bake to a deep-golden colour in the honey and sugar coating, and remove them from the oven at exactly the point before the nuts burn.

As with other wafer-like biscuits such as tuiles and brandy snaps, the mixture will naturally spread out while baking and harden on cooling. My preferred method is to gather up the molten, nutty mixture and create neat discs by dropping spoonfuls of the hot mixture into a steel cutter to form even-sized discs.

The classic nuts used to make Florentines are almonds. Roasting nuts intensifies their flavour, so the toasted almonds provide a wonderfully satisfying quality to this treat. The neat slivers of flaked almonds make perfect Florentines because they naturally pack down to a flat biscuit. But, you can use any mixture of nuts (including walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts or pistachios) once they are chopped to similar size. Likewise, you can consider using cranberries instead of glacé cherries, to add that ruby sparkle.

Traditionally, a bitter dark chocolate topping balances the sweetness. White chocolate is an alternative finish for those with a very sweet tooth. These delicate biscuits are a lovely idea if you want to bake something special as a gift to bring along to a dinner party. Your host may pay you the ultimate compliment and serve them as an after-dinner treat with coffee. They make a lovely addition to afternoon tea,especially as it is just as easy to turn them into small, bite size versions. 

FLORENTINES

Makes 8

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Ingredients
50g butter
50g caster sugar
2tbs honey
Pinch of salt
Zest of ½ lemon and 1tbs of lemon juice
100g flaked almonds
50g mixed fruit
1tbs plain flour
100g dark chocolate (55-75 per cent cocoa solids), melted
(Optional) 3-4 glacé cherries, halved 1tbs plain flour

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, honey, salt and lemon zest and juice over a medium heat until simmering.

3. Add in the flaked almonds and mixed fruit (and glacé cherries if using).

4. Gently stir in the flour to coat the mixture.  Cook over a medium heat for one minute.

5. Spread the mixture on to the lined baking sheet (spread it thinly to ensure the nuts bake evenly). 

6. Bake in the preheated oven for about 6-8 minutes, removing them as soon as the almonds are turning golden and the edges of the mixture are starting to caramelise (the mixture will burn rapidly after this point). Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a minute.

7. Using a metal cookie cutter on a cool, lightly greased plate or other flat surface, gather a spoonful of the mixture at a time and place inside the cutter. Press the mixture down into the cutter, flattening it with the back of a wet spoon, then remove the cutter (you can further compress the warmed mixture with your fingertips to ensure there are no gaps after removing the cutter). Repeat for more discs before leaving them to cool fully.

8. For the chocolate topping, use a palette knife to turn the cooled Florentines over. Use a teaspoon to pour melted chocolate over the flat side of each biscuit. Leave with chocolate side up in a cool place (or refrigerator) for a few minutes. Once the chocolate starts to harden, use the prongs of a fork to mark lines in the chocolate and leave in a cool place to set fully. Store in an airtight container, in a cool place, for up to one week.

Variation: For a gluten-free version, simply substitute ground almonds instead of plain flour.

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