Saturday, 16 August 2014

Florentines

Biscuit week on the Great British Bake Off and the contestants were challenged to bake a batch of savoury biscuits for their signature bake; a three dimensional biscuit scene for the showstopper challenge and florentines for the technical challenge.

On the face of it baking a batch of biscuits seems like a fairly easy task, but whilst variations within a baked batch of biscuits are tolerated and often welcomed for their home-spun charm in the home kitchen, they most certainly aren’t in the GBBO tent! Here, in addition to the biscuits tasting delicious, uniformity is the order of the day.

Once again this week, I have decided to try my hand at attempting my version of the bake that was set to the contestants in the technical challenge. Although florentines seem quite easy to make there are a few pitfalls along the way to look out for. Even slightly over-baking can result in biscuits that taste very burnt whilst under-baking can result in a biscuit that is too chewy. Coating the underside of the baked biscuits in chocolate is also a little tricky as you have to wait until the chocolate has cooled as is on the verge of setting again before attempting to apply it and create the wavy pattern that is so characteristic of traditional florentines.

Florentines should be crunchy on the outside but only very slightly chewy nearer the centre. They should also taste sweetly nutty in every bite. The addition of chocolate adds a little taste of luxury and textural contrast. I favour the use of dark chocolate when coating the florentines because I think it strikes the right balance against the sweetness contained in the biscuits, but you can use white or milk chocolate if you prefer.

Florentines, along with shortbread are biscuits that I very much associate with Christmas and the New Year, but after having made them here and knowing now how relatively simple they are to make, I will definitely be making them again and not keeping them confined to the festive season only.

Many versions of florentines, including the one that Mary Berry gave on this week’s programme include dried fruit or mixed peel along with the nuts. I have decided to keep it very simple here and have made an almond and ginger version of florentines, which I have coated in dark chocolate. I love the spicy warmth that the ginger gives the florentines and think that this goes so well with the almonds and chocolate. I have also added a little hint of fruitiness with the addition of some finely grated orange zest, but you can leave this out, if you prefer.

Ingredients:

25g butter
75g caster sugar
3tblsp double cream
1 heaped tblsp plain flour
65g flaked almonds
50g preserved stem ginger in syrup, drained and finely diced
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
125g dark chocolate, melted
 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
2. Place the butter, sugar and cream in a medium sized saucepan over a moderate heat and stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved.
3. Stir in the flour and mix through using a wooden spoon. Add the almonds, stem ginger and orange zest and mix these through until thoroughly combined.
4. Drop teaspoons of the mixture on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them well apart, leaving about 6cms between each. Bake in the preheated oven for about 7-8 minutes or until golden brown. Remove them from the oven and whilst they are still hot, neaten the edges. When cool enough to handle remove to a wire rack to finish cooling completely before decorating with the melted chocolate.
To finish:
5. Using a small palette knife spread cooled melted chocolate over the underside of the biscuits and then run a fork through the chocolate ion a wavy pattern. Return to the cooling rack with the chocolate side facing upwards, to allow the chocolate to harden.
 
Serves 4.