These chewy Italian biscuits are impressively showy, but deceptively easy to make. Perfect for an afternoon lift or as indulgent petits fours served with coffee after dinner. These biscuits work wonderfully with different fruits and nuts to suit all occasions and moods - dried cranberries instead of cherries make a lovely festive change at Christmas or a hint of simnel spices with extra chocolate chips makes for a wonderfully indulgent Easter treat. Versatile and sophisticated, these innocent-looking treats are highly addictive.
Florentines are relatively easy to make gluten-free as they already contain very little flour. If you want to make standard wheaty treats, simply follow the recipe below, making a direct swap from rice to plain flour. I always include the addition of finely chopped stem ginger, as the gently warming spice acts as a delicious foil for the nursery sweetness of the biscuits and the bitterness of the dark chocolate coating.
On last night’s Bake Off, there was a lot of talk of these biscuits needing to be “crisp”. Now, far be it for me to disagree with Mary Berry, but this was a little misleading. Florentines should still retain a little chew and not be out and out crunchy: that is part of their charm. They’re not brandy snaps after all. The laciness is found mostly at the edges and, although they should certainly not be bendy, too much of a snap means the Florentines are over-baked.
I personally favour a modern approach to the chocolate decoration. The classic wavy pattern on the back looks rather old-fashioned to my relatively young eyes and I prefer a simple blanket of tempered chocolate. I don’t want to spoil the cleanness of the sheen with the interruption of fork tines. Also, it means you end up with a less heavily coated biscuit, which makes them a little less sickly.
You can be forgiven for assuming that the most intimidating component to these biscuits is the tempered chocolate. Believe me when I say that there are a lot of things in life to be scared of, but tempering chocolate isn’t one of them. Tempering is simply the controlled melting of chocolate to ensure it has an even shine and a lovely snap when it sets. This is most easily achieved by the seeding method.
Simply melt two-thirds of your chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water until it reaches 45˚C. A plastic bowl is always useful for chocolate work, as any leftovers, which have set in the bowl, can be snapped out and reused by pushing the sides of the bowl together. You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave. Once the chocolate has reached 45˚C, gradually add the remaining chocolate and stir until the chocolate cools to 27˚C. At this stage, sit the bowl back on the saucepan of hot water (keep the gas off, the residual heat from it having boiled will be hot enough) and stir and reheat until the chocolate reaches 31˚C. You have just tempered your chocolate. See, that wasn’t too hard, was it?
These are taken from my second book, Deliciously Vintage, but if you want to get a little more adventurous with Florentines, please let me direct you to my third book, Baking Mash-Up, which features a recipe for Florentarts – a mash-up of a Florentine and a chocolate tart.