Fabulous Florentines…

I am in christmas baking mood at the moment and these Florentines have been a hit with my work colleagues. Cheap, cheerful and yummy – they’re just what the doctor ordered on a cold, dreary December day!

This recipe is from The Great British Bake Off – How to Bake.

They are really easy to make and look impressive. The only problem when you make them, is trying to stop yourself from  scoffing the lot before you give them away!

Makes 12

50g Blanched Almonds

50g Chopped up Glacé Cherries

25g Chopped mixed peel

50g Large Sultanas/raisins/crystallised fruits

25g Plain flour

75g Unsalted flour

75g Golden Syrup

100g Dark Chocolate (70% cocoa solids) or Milk chocolate

2 Baking sheets, non stick, greased or lined with baking paper

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Prepare all the ingredients so they are ready to use. Chop the almonds fairly finely, roughly chop the cherries/crystallised fruit and combine with the sultanas and peel. Sift the flour

Put the butter and golden syrup into a medium pan and melt gently. Remove from the heat and stir in all the prepared ingredients (not the chocolate).

Put a tablespoonful of the mixture onto one of the prepared baking sheets and gently flatten it out to a round about 7cm in diameter. Repeat with the rest of the mixture to make 12 biscuits, spacing well apart to allow for spreading.

Bake for about 8 minutes or until a good golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes or until firm, then carefully transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely (the biscuits are very fragile so handle with care).

To finish, put the chocolate into a  heat proof bowl and set over a pan of steaming hot but not boiling water (don’t let the base of the bowl touch the water). Leave to melt gently then remove the bowl from the pan.

Spread a thick layer of melted chocolate over the flat underside of each Florentine. If you like, use a serrated icing spatula or a fork to make a wavy pattern in the chocolate. Leave it to set, chocolate side up, on a sheet of non-stick baking paper. Store in an airtight container.

Black Millionaire’s Shortbread…

Just thought I’d share this bit of deliciousness that I made this week…

I nurse, I bake, I clean and I sew – I’m a catch right??

This recipe is from one of my favourite new cook books – Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet. Oh my goodness…. Can I just say this massive book and it’s recipes was made for weight gain…

Unfortunately (for my figure!) I have become increasingly interested in baking since reading a friend’s blog – the lovely Kate’s blog – What Kate Baked – she keeps posting distractingly yummy things! And the plethora of great food related TV shows on at the moment – Great British Bake Off and Masterchef to name but a few. I love John Torode and Michel Roux Jnr (did anybody see Michel and the raspberry chocolate tart, oh my goodness!)…. And on a really random side note – John Torode was a regular in the deli that I used to work in…

Right back to the recipe: My granny was and still is a prolific baker. To me, Millionaire’s Shortbread is a real throwback to my childhood and something that she always used to bring round. The only real drawback with this recipe though is that it takes a while – not great if you are impatient like me!

For the base

125g plain flour

2 tbsp cocoa

¼ tsp baking powder

75g muscovado sugar

100g unsalted butter, softened

For the topping

175g muscovado sugar

2 tbsp cornflour

1 tsp ground allspice

75g golden syrup

75g treacle

175g unsalted butter, softened

2 tsp vanilla extract

200g dark chocolate

25ml sunflower oil

Make the base by sifting the flour, cocoa and baking powder into a bowl. Add the sugar and butter, and rub until the mixture turns to a buttery dough. Press evenly into the base of a 20cm square tin lined with foil and bake at 170C (150C fan-assisted)/ 352F/gas mark 3 for 30 minutes.

Stir the sugar, cornflour, allspice and syrups in a deep saucepan over low heat until dissolved and smooth. Add the butter and vanilla, bring to a boil and simmer for three to four minutes, until a drizzle dropped into cold water can be squeezed into a soft ball between your fingers. Remove from the heat, let the bubbles subside, then pour over the base. Leave for three to four hours to cool, then gently melt the chocolate with the oil and spread over the top.

Verdict: I ran out of muscovado sugar and substituted it with molasses. I wouldn’t recommend that! It makes it really sweet and much darker and smokier. I prefer my millionaire’s shortbread not quite as dark with milk chocolate on the top and ordinary caramel in the middle. However, the cocoa shortbread is amazing, YUM!