Biscotti Fiorentini (known as Florentines, literally means Florentine Cookies; read bees-cotee fioren-teeny) comes from Florence, Italy. They are made from sugar, honey, cream, butter, dried fruit (usually cherries and candied peels) and almond flakes as the most important ingredient. It is quite common to use some flour, too, to thicken up the consistency. After being baked, they are cover in dark chocolate from one side which is then decorated with fork to create waves in the chocolate. They are quite large - about 5-8cm in diameter and very crispy.
Florentines were our The Daring Bakers' Challenge for February. We were supossed to use the Nestle recipe provided. However, I didn't do that and searched the net instead, to find some traditional recipes on an Italian sites. I then compared them all, saw what they have in common and what not, put that together and created (hopefully) traditional biscotti fiorentini. It wasn't difficult to make them at all but I had some troubles. At first, I made them way too big so during baking they spread a lot - a huge lot in fact - and I ended up with one genormous florentine. Nevermind, I used my cookie cutter to cut out single circles and saved the situation :D So I highly recommend making them small (use a teaspoon to divide the dough, not a tablespoon) because they will spread and become huge anyway.
When it comes to chocolate, use the dark/bittersweet one. Dark chocolate is traditional for Florentines and I completely understand why it's so. Milk chocolate is really too sweet for these cookies - they're very sweet and caramel-like - and the dark chocolate balances this well. The higher content of cocoa solids the better. I used chocolate containing 70% cocoa solids and it was the perfect balance between the sweet cookie and bitter chocolate. Nevertheless, my sister has an extremely sweet tooth, so I made some with milk chocolate for her and she loved it, but for the rest of us it was just way too sweet. And if you're daring enough, you can try using white chocolate, but I can't imagine how extremely sweet this must be.
Italians use a special type of flour - Italian Tipo 00 flour (extra fine plain flour with high gluten content used for pizza/bread/cookies etc.). In my country there is no problem with buying it - it's everywhere, but if can't find it anywhere, use your usual all-purpose flour or try a blend of bread flour and all-purpose flour. And now you can start baking :)
65ml whipping cream
115g granulated sugar
120g almond flakes
55g candied peels (orange & lemon)
35g dried cherries, quartered
40g Italian flout, Tipo 00
aprox. 200g dark chocolate, good quality
Soak dried cherries in hot water for 10 minutes. Put butter, whipping cream, sugar and honey into a pot over low flame and bring to a boil. Stirring constantly, boil for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in almond flakes, candied peels and cherries (dried again in a tea towel). Mix well, and add flour. You should get sticky batter rather than dough. Drop a teaspoon full, 7cm apart, onto lined baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your teaspoon, or use a spatula. Bake in preheated oven to 180C for about 5 minuts or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. Lower the temperature to 150-160C and bake for another 3-6 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown in the middle (make sure the edges are not black or burnt!). Remove from oven and let cool completely. Melt dark chocolate in a bowl over a pot of warm water and spread a tablespoon (more or less) of the chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie. Set aside for 2 minutes and then using a fork, create a wavy pattern in the chocolate.
- Florentines should be stored in an airtight container (because caramel absorbs water from the air and melts), each layer of them separated by wax/aluminium/parchment paper to prevent them from sticking to each other.
Crispy, crunchy and sweet. These three words characterise the cookies. Sugar turns into caramel and the whole cookie becomes very crunchy - no chewy here. I find it best to refrigerate the cookie about 10 minutes prior to serving, because then the chocolate layer is crispy and doesn't melt so fast (or you can temper the chocolate). For me, Florentines are a bit on the sweet side, so I only eat one or two and I don't need any other, but generally they're tasty :)
A Themed Bakers Sunday