Christmas is just around the corner and I couldn’t resist the urge to share a favourite family recipe. Florentines are gorgeous, gooey and decadent. Despite their name, they aren’t really from Florence, but are a classic Italian holiday biscuit that is shared and devoured with guilty pleasure all over the country.
Until a couple of years ago, my husband’s parents owned a bakery in our small little Tuscan town. People would come from Rome to buy a box of these Florentine biscuits. It might have been my father-in-law’s natural charisma or my mother-in-law’s selling prowess or just the simple moorishness of the treats themselves, but they would sell hundreds a day.
People would line up outside the door waiting for their turn to buy a little bag and it would be a test of wills to get to the car without dipping their hands into the proverbial cookie jar for a taste.
Florentines can be flavoured with almost anything you have on hand. The base is a thick and rich caramel that’s baked until crisp like toffee. Almonds and chocolate are traditional favourites, but my recipe really amps up the holiday vibe with pistachios and cranberries. A hint of cinnamon evokes mulled wine by the fire, while a coating of coffee ganache is quintessentially Italian.
My parents-in-law always made their Florentines smaller than the traditional recipe. Sold in bags, they were meant to symbolise coins and bring good fortune to whomever bought them. The more you eat, the richer you’d be in the coming year! Although if you eat too many of these, your dentist will be the only one getting rich in 2018!
Since we celebrate Christmas in Australia most years, I always try to bring a piece of my husband’s heritage Down Under. These Florentines make different and decadent gifts. They look amazing and since they’re basically just cooked sugar, they last for ages wrapped in a translucent bag with a big ribbon bow.
A couple of years ago, we used them as tiles on our gingerbread house to great success… well, the gingerbread bread house’s foundations gave out after an hour, but the tiles stayed put and were delicious!
Coffee Florentines with Cranberries and Pistachios
130g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
70ml pouring cream
70g dried cranberries
150g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons espresso
Combine sugar, honey, cinnamon and cream in a saucepan over high heat.
When the mixture reaches 170°C on a sugar thermometer, add the pistachios and cranberries.
Preheat oven to 170°C. Place a lightly oiled 3cm-round cookie-cutter on an oven tray lined with baking paper, place 1 tbsp of Florentine mixture in the cutter and press with the back of a spoon to fill evenly. Repeat and bake for 10 minutes.
Don’t worry if your Florentines spread a little in the oven. You can cut them to size again using a small cookie cutter while they’re still hot from the oven to get that perfect coin shape! Leave to cool. The recent mini microwaves reviews include some advice on how to melt the dark chocolate and espresso in the microwave in short bursts. Use a spoon to coat the backs of the Florentines and leave to harden.