This is a recipe I’ve been working from for quite a number of years. Some years ago, when in my twenties, I made some Florentines and took them to my Italian night school course. The lady who was teaching us commented on how her mother baked them. The weird thing is a few years later I remember reading a book about Tuscan cooking and the author (sorry, I can’t remember the book) said that Florentines aren’t from Florence, wider Tuscany or even from Italy. They suggested that they are a French invention, made in honour of Catherine di Medici, who was Queen of France but had been born in Florence – and that’s where the connection was from.
I don’t even know why I remembered this – I have a memory for trivia and not much else (although as an aside I’m a good quiz team member!) I did a quick Google search earlier and found comments to support both theories – so I’m none the wiser: they’re just nice anyway!
Anyway, the pointers my Italian teacher gave me were to use sour cherries and don’t cover in chocolate. I’m ignoring that last bit as I think the addition of chocolate is lovely. It’s often difficult to get hold of sour cherries (plus they usually come in syrup so need to be washed and dried before use). She did say her mother baked them in the bottom of a muffin/small cake pan, rather flat on a sheet, which I have been doing ever since as they come out nicer than just dropping them onto a baking sheet. So, sorry to all the Mary Berry recipe followers who like them to spread out and adhere to Mary’s penchant for ‘lacy edges’.
Please do use either non-stick or line them – or you’ll never get them out – if using metal pans. About a year ago I bought a silicon mini tart case which is just genius for these – they come out every time. I’ve added a picture of my case below; I got mine from Amazon but I have seen similar in Lakeland and occasionally in TK Maxx recently. Any flat silicon mini cake case will do (even oval friands) as it doesn’t have to be the tiny ones I use, although they are cute.
Makes about 28 tiny Florentines (in the silicone tray I have which gives about 30cm rounds) or about 20 ‘normal sized’ (typical muffin/fairy cake pan). There are just four steps: heat the sugar mix, mix all the ingredients, bake in the oven then coat with chocolate.
Turn these into Florentine shortbreads!
Bake one batch of my vanilla shortbread recipe and select a biscuit cutter the same size as the bottom of the tin/mould you are using to bake the Florentine mix in. Make the shortbread to the recipe using this round cutter and allow to cool. When both shortbreads and Florentines are done and cooled, take about 40g of additional chocolate and melt it. Use this chocolate to ‘glue’ the base of a Florentine onto the top of a shortbread round. Leave until the chocolate has set and joined the Florentine to the biscuit.
- Sugar thermometer (easy with one but you can do it without)
- Muffin tray / silicon tray
- Bowl for the chocolate
- Baking parchment
- Wire cooling rack
- Demerara or golden caster sugar – 70g
- Honey – 35g
- Double cream – 35g
- Sour cherries – 35g (if you can’t get these, ‘decent’ glace cherries will do or your choice of candied fruit)
- Flaked almonds – 75g
- ‘Other’ nuts, chopped roughly – 50g (I used a mix of pistachios and hazelnuts here but I have used whatever I’ve got to hand and pretty much any nuts, excluding peanuts, work)
- Chocolate – 100g (use whichever you prefer – it’s nice with milk, dark or white)
- Put the oven on to 165C fan, 175C conventional
- Prepare your muffin pan with little circles of baking paper or simply use a silicone tray if you have one
- Heat the sugar, honey and cream over a medium heat to 118-120C. If you haven’t got a thermometer heat until the mix bubbles all over and is just about to start turning a caramel colour (you’ll have to watch it closely!)
- Take the saucepan off the heat
- Tip all the other ingredients into the saucepan (apart from the chocolate!) and mix thoroughly
- Spoon a scant teaspoon of the mix into the bottom of the mini pan – or about 1 1/2 teaspoons if you are using a normal size muffin pan
- Don’t worry about the mix forming a lump in the middle of the pan – as it heats it will spread out
- Stick the tray in the oven and bake until the mix is golden brown and bubbling – this is about 8 – 10 mins
- Leave to cool in the pan and then tip them out, flat side up (you’re going to cover the flat side with chocolate)
- Melt your chocolate – temper it if you wish (please see my reminder post on chocolate temperatures here)
- Paint or drizzle the chocolate over the flat sides of the Florentines and leave to cool chocolate sides up
- They should be ready to eat when totally cooled
- They will store in an airtight container for a few days – if they last that long!