Florentines - A Recipe for Romance
For me, these delicate, lacy webs of caramel, fruit and nuts are inextricably linked to my maternal Grandmother. I remember her bringing them home from work from the local bakery when I went to stay with her as a child. Later, after she retired and moved closer to our family home in Scotland, we would bake them together. Despite being something of a daydreamer, I have to admit that I am hopelessly unromantic. I think I always was. But I realised when I met my husband, almost twenty years ago now, that I wasn’t looking for romantic dinners and moonlit walks, I wanted a man who could make me belly laugh. These days, romantic love has a small but significant role to play in our lives against the backdrop of everyday responsibilities, and a gesture of true love from me to my husband tends to be of the culinary persuasion. He, like me, has a weakness for any chocolate and nut combo, and florentines are his absolute favourite. The care and attention that goes into making these unwieldy little delights make them the perfect edible gift. So, with valentine’s day looming, I decided to set to and make a batch. There are endless variations on the classic patisserie biscuit recipe but I say go with whatever takes your fancy. Flaked almonds are non-negotiable as far as I’m concerned. I like to add sweet and sticky glace cherries, and currants were a staple of the version that my Nan brought home, so those always have to go in too. I’m not going to lie, they are a faff to make – a case of high effort, high reward. And they can take a while, but if you’ve got a lazy afternoon at your disposal, they’re well worth the trouble. Here’s how I do mine.
Ingredients (makes 12):
70g dark brown sugar
30g pistachio kernels, roughly chopped (and extra to decorate)
30g glacé cherries, chopped into quarters
60g flaked almonds
20g plain flour
2 tablespoons of double cream
A pinch of salt
200g dark chocolate
A few pinches of dried rose petals and freeze dried raspberries
A few drops of rose water
Heat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. First melt the butter and sugar together slowly in a medium sized pan. Roughly chop the pistachio nuts and slice the glace cherries into slivers, then mix with the rest of the nuts and fruit in a large bowl. Sift the flour over them and make sure they’re evenly coated. With the pan off the heat, stir in the double cream and salt, then add this mixture to the fruit and nuts. Using two teaspoons, heap small portions of the mixture into small mounds on the baking tray, making sure there’s enough space between them to let them spread. Bake for approximately 8 minutes and then check them. If necessarily, bake for up to another 4 or 5 minutes, checking them every now and again – make sure to watch them like a hawk while they’re baking and be very careful not to let them burn. A good florentine should break, not bend, so you need to give them long enough for the caramel to form. I tend to take mine out after 8 or 9 minutes and re-form them using a knife and a teaspoon while they’re still pliable or I find they spread out too much and I can’t get them off the greaseproof paper. Once they’re ready, use a spatula to take them off the tray and put them straight on a cooling tray. While they’re cooling, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of boiling water, then add a couple of drops of the rose water. Once the Florentines are cool, use a pastry brush to coat them with the chocolate. I like to let the first layer cool completely and then add another. While the chocolate is still soft, sprinkle with more chopped pistachios, freeze dried raspberries and edible dried rose petals to decorate.