Forget your Prousts and your Madeleines, your Amaretti and Garibaldi, your Rich Tea and Digestive, your Kimberley, Mikado and Coconut Cream. And while we’re at it we can skip the great mysteries of the Jacobs Fig Roll too, and anything with the word “cookie” in it. For me, the greatest biscuit in the world – or sort of cakey biscuity thing in the entire universe – has to be the Florentine.
Florentines typically involve nuts and candied or dried fruit such as cherries and raisins, all held together in an almost caramel mix and on a dark chocolate base. In theory they are circular in shape – more on that in a minute.
I developed a serious grá (rough translation: attachment) for Florentines after a certain member of our family began to “take her work home with her”, as they say. But when she moved on from her job in the cake shop (no, she was never arrested) I was forced to bake my own Florentines.
I began with a recipe from the classic Irish cookbook All In The Cooking, in which each biscuit rests on wafer paper, also known as “edible rice paper”. Don’t confuse it with the thicker rice paper wraps you get in Asian stores that need to be resuscitated by dunking in warm water.
This wafer paper can be quite pricey and hard to source. One popular brand for home bakers is Easybake Edible Rice Paper, which is actually made from potato starch rather than rice and is about €3 for a pack of 12 sheets. When the Kitchen Complements shop in Dublin closed down two or three years ago I stopped bothering with the rice paper altogether. It’s by no means essential, though it does help to give the Florentine structures a stable base.
But the one ingredient sorely missing from the All In The Cooking recipe is… chocolate.
So my recipe has evolved over the years and now consists of:
- 50g butter
- 50g light brown sugar
- 50g plain flour
- 15 ml Golden Syrup (or honey)
- 40 g mixed peel / currants / raisins, roughly chopped
- 40 g glace cherries, quartered (or try dried cranberries)
- 40 g blanched almonds, toasted and chopped (or you could use almond flakes or hazelnuts)
- 125 g dark chocolate – the proper stuff with at least 70% cocoa
Preheat your oven to 180°C. In a saucepan melt the butter then add the sugar and syrup. Once it’s all dissolved, stir in everything else except the chocolate.
Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Let the mixture cool for a couple of minutes, then take a generous spoonful and spread it thinly on the parchment, with a good inch of space between each dollop because they will spread out as they cook.
Bake for about 12 minutes until golden brown, and keep a good eye on them so they don’t burn. Meanwhile melt the chocolate in chunks in a bowl over a pot of simmering water.
When the biscuits are baked, take them out and allow to cool for three to four minutes on a wire rack. Carefully spread the chocolate over the underside of each biscuit with a fork, making a fancy pattern on it with the prongs while still soft. Leave to set before devouring.
That’s the theory. But as you can see from my picture here, this latest batch began to fall apart. Maybe I measured something wrong, or I didn’t spread the mixture thinly enough.
But who cares? Simply drizzle the chocolate over the top of each biscuit fragment in your best impersonation of a Jackson Pollock, and serve with scoops of vanilla ice cream.