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Christmas Baking : Florentines : Version 1

Last year was the first year I really baked for Christmas. As gifts for my extended family I baked around a hundred coconut macaroons, ginger snaps, linzer biscuits and caramel-hazelnut & seasalt chocolate bark & packaged them all up into little jars. To say they went down well is an understatement, most of them got eaten within about 10 minutes of being received and I was told in no uncertain terms that the same again next year would be great.

But I don’t want to make the exact same biscuits obviously, so I’ve been trying to think about some alternatives. First up, Florentines. I gave some bought ones as gifts a few years ago and they are a delicious, delicate biscuit. My first problem was choosing who’s recipe to follow, I’ve got one from Mary Berry, one from Nigella, there’s one in my Good Housekeeping cookbook & then I found Nigel Slater‘s on The Guardian‘s website. A lot of them made them sound quite difficult, which put me off immediately, so I went with Nigel’s, he always keeps everything simple.

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The biscuits are mainly comprised of flaked almonds, dried cranberries (as suggested in Nigel’s recipe), mixed peel (pre-chopped in a tub, I couldn’t find any full pieces), glace cherries, crystallised ginger & dark chocolate. The ginger was a bit of an experiment, everything should have ginger in at Christmas. They’re really easy to make, you melt butter & sugar and bring them to the boil. Add the cream & the fruit & the nuts and mix well. Then take them off the heat & leave for 5 mins.

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Once a little cooler spoon them out onto a piece of greaseproof paper (I don’t trust butter & flour for preventing them sticking even though it’s what Nigel recommends) and bake for about 8 minutes at about 160C fan. When they come out of the oven they have spread a lot but are very soft so you can use this time to scoop the spread mixture back into the body of the biscuit. I then left them for a minute or two before carefully lifting them off the tray to cool on a rack.

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Once they’re cool then I melted some dark chocolate & spread it across the bottom of each biscuit & left it to solidify. As well as adding another flavour I think this really helps with the look of the biscuits, it gives them some depth somehow.

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And the result is these beautiful biscuits! I made a lot more than Nigel’s recipe (18 to his suggested 12) & I think I’d like them to be smaller still, so I’m thinking 24 will be perfect. I love the ginger, but it doesn’t quite work with the mixed peel in the current quantities. I think I’m going to drop the cherries, up the ginger & cranberries & reduce the mixed peel in the next batch & see how that goes. I also love Nigella’s idea of dipping half in dark chocolate & half in white.

Looks like I’m going to need to make another batch this week.

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