The first time I tasted Florentines was in the late 1970s. The husband of a family friend kept a pile in his cookie jar and it was always such a treat when we visited. I'm not sure which bakery he bought them from, but they were they size of my hand and, with an assortment of dried fruits, nuts and rich chocolate coating, they were seriously good.
However, they were also rock solid and, as such, a bit hard to bite into. 'Tooth Crackers', I call them. I've eaten some other 'tooth cracker' biscuits over the years, regretting it instantly when I felt that certain crunch, knowing in my gut that the little nugget I just chomped into wasn't part of the biscuit! Ouch! This unplanned activity has kept my dentist, Dr Fang (true), happy for a time. Needless to say, I've been longing to experiment with my own version of Florentines that are kinder to the teeth.
So, on to my Florentine recipe. I dipped into several of my cookbooks, as well as a few online recipes to find a good base of ingredients as a guide. Some recipes call for honey and flour, while others use condensed milk as the binding agent. I decided to use unsalted cultured butter and allowed the butter to caramelise or burn slightly on one or two test batches.
Given the season and our recent trip interstate for the Cherry Festival, I'm still in the midst of a cherry adventure. At a roadside stall owned by the Batinich family's Cherrymore Orchard on Wombat Road, I found packets of dried pitted preservative free cherries for sale and knew they'd be perfect in my Florentines. I had made a couple of batches with dried cranberries/craisins and they were very good, but with my newly discovered dried cherries, they're even better! One little word of caution, watch out for the occasional pip!
'Why do you put the chocolate over the top?' Peter asked, 'It should be on the bottom.' I explained that I like my Florentines that way. Another reason was that the 'biscuits' seem to hold their shape better this way. I noted too that some recipes call for metal rings to keep the mixture in a circular mould, whereas others suggested using a palette knife to pull the mixture back into shape while still warm from the oven, but before drizzling with chocolate. The method I've shown here results in a more homely style of Florentine, that Peter and I have rated in the 'seriously good' category.
Given my man's important question about the chocolate on the top versus chocolate on the bottom, I plan to experiment over my upcoming January holidays and will report back with additional recipes for you (and Peter) to try. In the meantime, if you have a great recipe for Florentines, please share it with me.
FLORENTINES A LA LIZZY
2 cups cornflakes, gluten free if preferred
1/2 cup sultanas
1 cup flaked or slivered almonds
100g dried pitted cherries (or cranberries)
1/2 cup caster sugar
100g unsalted butter
250g dark chocolate
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C. Prepare a 1/2 cup muffin tray by placing large paper liners into the holes. Alternatively, place 15 paper liners onto a baking sheet. Combine the cornflakes, sultanas, almonds and cherries in a bowl and mix well.
Melt the butter and sugar in a small saucepan. (In one batch, I deliberately tried allowing the butter to caramelise slightly, for a yummy burnt butter taste. It was good). Add the melted butter/sugar mixture to the other ingredients and fold through, coating thoroughly. Spoon equal amounts into the paper liners. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a double boiler over a saucepan of simmering water. Drizzle the chocolate over the Florentines in zig zag fashion. Refrigerate and serve chilled, in or out of the liners. Makes 15 or so. Will store well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.
The process in pictures...
Think you can stop at just one?
Have you ever bitten into a 'tooth cracker' sweet? Tell me about it.
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.