I’ve had to do two Bake-off inspired recipes this weekend because I caught the first episode late. Episode two was all about biscuits. Not the fluffy North American quick bread, but the crisp textured cookie. Apparently, the difference between a cookie and a biscuit is that biscuits have a snap or crumble, while a cookie is generally bigger and chewy.
The biscuit week episode signature bake was the Florentine cookie, the technical bake was the coconut macaroon (these are chewy, so are they really biscuits?) and the showstopper bake was to create a 3D biscuit table setting based on a fond memory. I’ve made plenty of macaroons before, so I decided to go with the Florentine.
I can remember eating Florentines as a child but have never made them myself. My mother used to either bake them or buy them, so this would be a bit of a nostalgic biscuit for me. Florentines are generally made with almonds and combined with a caramel type mixture. They are then baked until golden and crisp. Once cool, one side is spread with melted chocolate.
For the signature bakes, there were all kinds of different flavoured Florentines, ranging from Salted Caramel and Sticky Toffee to Mango Lassi flavoured ones. All of the Florentines featured a mixture of nuts and dried fruit and were coated in a layer of chocolate.
I looked at the recipes that were posted on the Great British Bake-Off site as well as a general search on the internet. There were few recipes available! I even searched through my cookbooks. I found a recipe for Florentine Bars in my Canadian Living cookbook, but nothing else.
The recipe that appealed to me most from the Bake-off website was the recipe for Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel Florentines. If you have read my blog, you will know that I love salted caramel! During the tasting, the judges commented that they would have been better with dark chocolate to offset the sweetness of the florentine rather than milk chocolate. That was the first change I decided to make. The second change was to use hazelnuts instead of pecans. I happened to have them on hand and enjoy that flavour. One part of the recipe had me stuck though. It used golden syrup, which is not something commonly found in Canada.
I decided to phone my mom to see what her recipe entailed. She wasn’t sure where the recipe had been from but definitely didn’t like the idea of golden syrup, which is derived from molasses and has a fairly strong flavour. She thought that was a British ingredient and did not speak to the cookie’s Italian roots! She found a recipe in her New York Times cookbook and sent it to me. I decided to percolate on the recipe for a day or two and decide what to do later.
After much consideration, I mixed elements from a bunch of different recipes. I made a brown sugar caramel to mix with the nuts and raisins and for the topping, I used semi-sweet chocolate. I was also going to decorate with white chocolate for contrast but then had the inspiration to do a caramelized white chocolate as one of the other contestants used for his topping. I was already considering this ingredient for a cake I’m making next weekend, so it seemed like a good time to try it out.
Caramelizing white chocolate is really easy. You just need a heatproof bowl that can go in the microwave. You melt the chocolate, then microwave and stir the chocolate in 20-second increments until it turns golden. The result is much less sweet chocolate with caramel notes.
With the recipe planning finished I went ahead and baked my Florentines. They turned out so well! They are not as evenly round as the ones from Bake-off, because I chose not to cut them after they baked, but I liked the rustic look. Choosing the caramelized white chocolate was the exact right thing to do. My husband commented that the flavour of the chocolate really complimented the caramel flavour of the biscuit and thought it was decadent and delicious!
Yay! Another successful Bake-Off bake!
Dark Chocolate, Almond and Hazelnut Florentines with a Caramelized White Chocolate DrizzleThese delectable Florentine cookies contain a mix of almonds, hazelnuts, raisins and candied peel that is mixed with a brown sugar caramel. After baking until crisp, they are then coated on one side with melted semi-sweet chocolate and drizzled with caramelized white chocolate. If you can’t find peeled hazelnuts, you can easily peel them by blanching them in water mixed with 1 tbsp baking soda for 3 minutes. The peels will then just slide off!
For the Florentines
- Heat the oven to 350 F/180 C
- Place the almonds, hazelnuts, raisins and mixed peel in the food processor and pulse until chopped into small pieces. Add the flour and pulse again to combine. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Place the butter, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat stirring until the butter melts. Then cook without stirring until the mixture reaches 250 F/120 C. Remove from heat and whisk in the cream. Pour the caramel over the nut mixture and stir until well mixed.
- These cookies spread quite a bit, so you will need to cook only 6 per baking sheet. Scoop 1 tbsp of the mixture onto a lined baking sheet and press to an even thickness, about 5 cm/2 in round. Allow plenty of room between each cookie. You will end up with 18-21 cookies so you will need to bake these in batches.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, until browned around the edges and golden in the centre. Let cookies cool for 5 minutes in the pan before moving them to a rack to cool completely. To Decorate
- To melt the semi-sweet chocolate, place in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 20 seconds, then stir. Continue heating and stirring in 15-second increments until the chocolate is fully melted. Using a knife or spatula, spread a layer of chocolate over the flat side of the cookies. Allow to set before moving on to the next step.
- To make the caramelized white chocolate, place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds then stir, continue heating in 20-second increments, stirring between each. The chocolate will first melt, then over time, it will begin to change texture and then colour. Continue this process until the chocolate turns a golden caramel colour. Do not be disturbed when the chocolate becomes a bit chalky in texture. This is part of the process. Stir the chocolate until it becomes smooth again. The bowl will become quite hot during this process, so oven mitts are necessary. Once you have reached the desired colour, allow the chocolate to cool to lukewarm. Then using a spoon, drizzle the chocolate decoratively over the dark chocolate. Allow to set before serving.