Hello! My name is Emily, and Alex, who runs the show around these parts, is one of my best friends. I'm lucky enough to be one of her regular cultural, creative and culinary co-conspirators (try saying that three times fast), and I promise I'm not just co-operating with the blog so she'll let me eat all the amazing food she writes about on here. I'm not a vegetarian, but I almost never cook with meat, and I tend to specialise in comfort food and/or the kind of thing you'd prepare for a big celebratory get-together. Speaking of which...

On the 12th Day Of Christmas, I was baking like a maniac.

Many mark Epiphany with 'King Cakes' - the French side of my family indulges in the traditional frangipane galettes (one of my favourite things ever) every Sunday in January - but as alas pastry is NOT my forte (note that I've never tried the recipe linked to here, it's for explanatory purposes only). But to me, January 6th is really mostly the day before my Grandmother's birthday, and this year, Granny specifically asked for Florentines.

Granny's a pretty picky eater, and her memory isn't quite what it used to be, so the fact that she remembered something I've made before and liked it enough to ask for it is a high honour indeed! And so of course, I postponed all the other fairly important things I needed to do, like apply for a new job, proofread someone's PhD thesis, do my current job, and sleep, and got my year in cooking started in spectacular fashion by thoroughly laying waste to the kitchen into the wee small hours of the morning.

I couldn't find the recipe I'd used before, so I started with Delia, and adapted from there.

Festive Florentines
I doubled Delia's recipe because I have many relatives and adjusted the ingredients based on what my unglamorous local supermarket had to offer:
Baking paper (Non-essential, but dramatically speeds up the process if you're baking in batches, which, let's face it, unless you have an industrial kitchen, you pretty much will be.)
300g dark chocolate (Unless you have a REALLY sweet tooth, I'd advise against substituting milk or white chocolate here - after all, you want to be able to scoff as many of these as possible without lapsing into a sugar coma.)
50g salted butter (I always use salted butter to add flavour but if the idea of salt in sweets really squicks you out, there's no reason why you can't use unsalted.)
150g caster sugar (I typically reduce sugar quantities and/or substitute ground almonds in almost every recipe I try, but in this case, you're essentially making caramel, so it's all about proportions. Don't let that intimidate you though! And I don't usually have a qualifying paragraph for every single ingredient, so don't let that intimidate you, either.)
20g plain flour
130ml double cream (I accidentally dumped the entire 150ml tub in with no adverse effects, my earlier point about proportions notwithstanding.)
200g flaked almonds (Delia's recipe calls for slicing and 'blanching' half the almonds yourself and just... no. Life's too short, and I don't really know what blanching means, anyway. As a compromise, I bought one bag of toasted and one bag of untoasted flaked almonds, but I honestly don't think it makes the blindest bit of difference.)
100g candied peel
100g glacé cherries, chopped (If by some miracle you can find these ready-chopped, DO IT. Hang the expense. Chopping glacé cherries is gross.)

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees (gas mark 5). Line your baking trays with baking paper. (Note on baking trays: I have used muffin/bun tins (the ones with round indentations) to make these before, and my aunt - who is, like, a proper catering cook - mentioned the other day that she does that too. It makes for nice uniformly round florentines, but it does mean they can be thick and therefore chewy rather than crisp. If you do go that route, or opt to use flat trays but no baking paper, make sure you grease them thoroughly as this mixture will stick to EVERYTHING. Letting the mixture spread on flat trays can get a bit messy if they blend together into one giant florentine, but if you use baking paper you can actually cut them with scissors before they set, and I think they're nicer that way)

Prepare the almonds (in whatever format you've plumped for), candied peel and cherries so they're ready to be stirred in to the mixture with a minimum of faffing later in the process. If you do need to chop the cherries, aim for pieces about a quarter of the size, but not a lot of precision is really required.

Stick the butter, flour and sugar in a pan (big enough to eventually hold all the ingredients) on low heat. Stir continuously until they've blended together smoothly, then slowly add the cream, while still stirring. As the cold cream hits the warm mixture you might end up with little hard flecks of caramel. Don't worry about those, they'll blend into the mixture with no adverse effects, but resist the urge to fish them out and eat them, as they'll be HOT and REALLY STICKY and that will be PAINFUL.

Once again, stir until the mixture is smooth and uniform. Add the nuts, etc.

Stir thoroughly.

Spoon onto baking trays/tins. A not-too-heaped teaspoonful of mixture will produce a roughly small-biscuit-sized florentine (are florentines biscuits? I've never been able to decide. Do let me know what you think, not that it matters - they're yummy :)). If you want the shape to be nice and rounded leave plenty of space between each one so they can spread without overlapping; if you're less worried about overlapping (and using baking paper) then don't worry about that as you can separate them by cutting them before they set.

And into the oven they go!

I found 11 minutes to be the optimal cooking time but keep an eye on them as your mileage/oven may vary. If you've got several batches on more than one shelf, swap them halfway through so they cook uniformly.

Note that they won't be hard when they come out, so don't wait for that to happen.

Here's where the baking paper comes into it's own: you can just (carefully) lift the whole thing off the baking tray and set it aside to cool, line the tray with a fresh sheet, and start over. And like I mentioned above, if the florentines have spread too much and overlapped, at this point, you can just cut them out with scissors (you want to do that now before they set).

Onc you're close to being done with the baking of the last batch, it's time for the fun part: melt the chocolate. Delia goes on about bowls and water and not touching the sides or something but let's be real: microwave. (If you don't have a microwave, I'm guessing you know how to melt chocolate without one; if somehow you've gone through life without ever melting chocolate in a microwave - less than a minute will do it, it won't look melted when it comes out, but mix it and it will).

Coat each florentine by pouring a spoonful of chocolate onto each piece. Spread it out with the spoon. I'm not personally a big stickler for it being all that even, but yet another advantage of the baking paper is that if you want to get every last corner of them, you can go over the edges without making too much of a mess.

Delicious, gooey fun.

And you're done! Stick them in the fridge until the chocolate sets. If you're not going to serve them within a day, I'd peel them off the baking paper after a few hours, and store in something airtight.

These have never lasted long enough at my house for me to have a good sense of how long it is before they go off.


  1. These look amazing! Cooking in our house has always been of the nut free variety, for obvious reasons, and now I just don't think to use them. But would love to try these - the process sounds as much fun as the outcome. Great pictures too.

    The first non-family contributor to E&2V - welcome!

    1. I reckon you could replicate these nut-free with oats, maybe, or bits of biscuit of some kind. They are super fun to make. Alas there are none left of this batch - I took the rest to Meeting tonight - but if you want to keep your house nut free you're welcome to come and bake at mine (that stands for anything you want to try of course :))!

  2. And thank you from me too for adding to the somewhat neglected sweets section of the blog. Good to have another creative, imaginative and enthusiastic cook to share her talents with us. I'm hopeless when it comes to desserts and puds so this is a treat to behold. Only wish I could taste the finished product. Thank you, dear Emily!

    1. I'm not generally much of a sweets person either, be that in baking or consumption, so I'm not sure to what extent I'll be continuing to plug that hole! Really happy to be on board though :)