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Gluten-free Florentines

by Victoria Glass
Gluten-free Florentines

Gluten-free Florentines

PT30M

Why not try?

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.

Just baked and cooling
Just baked and cooling
Chocolate for tempering
Chocolate for tempering

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.

Ingredients

Metric

Imperial

1
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/350°F/gas mark 4
2
Put the butter, cream, sugar and honey in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and bring to the boil. Take the pan off the heat and vigorously stir in the remaining ingredients (except for the chocolate). Leave the mixture to cool for a few minutes
3
Line two large baking sheets with baking parchment/silicone paper. Dollop generous teaspoons of mixture at 5cm intervals on to the baking sheets and flatten each one with the back of a spoon (they will spread further on baking). Bake for 8–10 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool completely on a wire cooling rack
4
Place two-thirds of the chocolate drops (finely chop the chocolate first if not using drops) in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Once the chocolate has completely melted and reached 45˚C, take the bowl off the heat and gradually stir in the remaining chocolate with a rubber spatula until all the chocolate has melted. Once the chocolate has dropped to 27˚C, return the bowl to the heat and reheat to 31˚C
5
Use a palette knife to generously paint the Florentines with chocolate. If the chocolate isn’t thick enough the first time round, you can paint each biscuit with a second coat; by the time you have painted the first coat on the last Florentine, the first should have set enough for a second coat
 
 
 

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