The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

ITJB Week 2: Florentines (12/10/11 - 12/17/11)

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Urchina's picture
Urchina

ITJB Week 2: Florentines (12/10/11 - 12/17/11)

I had the great good fortune to test-bake these during the test-baking sessions for the book, and they were marvelous. I used the spoon-drop method to portion the dough and it worked perfectly well for my less-than-meticulous baking aesthetics. With or without the chocolate they're ridiculously good. I'm going to make these for the cookie swap we're going to and watch the envy of the others as these disappear at lightning speed. If any actually make it to the swap, that is; the "quick-as-lightning" disappearing act happens as soon as they're set up enough to eat. Can't wait to see everyone's posts!

dawkins's picture
dawkins

First off, these are incredibly delicious: sweet, crispy, nutty, with that butterscotch taste... yum! Secondly, I actually made these last week, so that I could post them this week as part of the biscuit parcels I send out at Christmas.

Now, on to the nitty gritty:

Ingredients: I went with almonds, as they were cheaper. I blitzed them to a nibby texture then, to make up the weight, I added a little bit of ground almonds that I had left over from Christmas cake baking. I used salted butter, not unsalted, so I didn't have to buy any specially and honey, not corn syrup, since that's not something you see here in the UK. My only real change was to use dark chocolate (80%, I think), as for my tastes, I thought the biscuits would be sweet enough and I wanted a counterpoint.

Cooking the mix: I had no problems following the recipe, although as I couldn't find my thermometer, I just guessed when the mixture was ready to pipe/dollop out. Once it had boiled and turned to a paste, I just left it on a very low heat so it wouldn't seize up. After the baking paper disaster (more below), when it had thickened up, I just added a couple of tablespoons of water, stirred it up/warmed it to a paste again, and it was fine. Also, a quick scan in my cupboard revealed one broken piping bag, so I went with the old-fashioned 'two teaspoons' method to dish out the mix.

Making the florentines: Oh woe, alas and alack - I foolishly believed that when the recipe said to put the mix on parchment, greaseproof paper would be fine, rather than non-stick baking parchment. And so it came to pass that the first three trays were mightily afflicted with a dreadful sticking. And though I cooled them as required, and smote them with knife, fork, fish slice and other diverse implements, they refused to budge from the paper, and clung stubbornly to the shreds and remnants thereof. After much cursing, futile attempts to peel the paper off the back of them and the like, I decided to abandon those and try using my old silicon baking mats instead. And guess what: the mixture still spread out nicely as it heated up, bubbled up and subsided to a lovely brown disc of deliciousness, and peeled off the silicon mat with no trouble whatsover - providing I used my cheap, thin baking trays rather than my expensive thick one. I found that I was overcautious with the first few, which were still a bit soft even when cooled, so by trial and error I worked out that they needed to be what I can only describe as fox coloured - reddish brown all over - when they came out, and would then crisp up nicely as they cooled. For any that didn't harden, just popping them back in the oven for a minute or two worked a treat.

Assembling and eating: As I said, I went with a very dark chocolate, which I added as suggested using a teaspoon. I had the florentines on a rack over paper to do this, as I found that the chocolate tended to ooze out of the holes in the lower florentine. Once they'd cooled down (after a quick trip outside on the rack) they were ready - and how incredibly more-ish these are. We polished off loads straight away, I've been picking at them ever since, and only the need to actually add these to the rest of the Christmas biscuits I had made and post them has stopped me from gobbling the lot. Dangerously nice, I'd say.

gmagmabaking2's picture
gmagmabaking2

That is a great picture of your florentiines... how do I upload one of mine?

dawkins's picture
dawkins

...point you in this direction in the FAQ: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2960/posting-photos-faq
Hope that helps - can't wait to see your photo.

loydb's picture
loydb

Those look good! I'm hoping that regular baking parchment paper is non-stick, I'm making them today...

 

dawkins's picture
dawkins

Looking forward to seeing them. :o)

Elagins's picture
Elagins

So much so that I may at some point ask for permission to use that photo on the ITJB website (and beyond).

Stan

gmagmabaking2's picture
gmagmabaking2

I just finished making the second challenge recipe, the Lace Cookies... I used vanilla chocolate chips. The recipe was very easy to put together and the cookies are very tasty.  I spooned the batter onto the parchment paper and am thinking the next time I bake them I may actually use the piping bag method since getting uniformity was my only issue.  Love the cookies and they look fancy.  Now the "challenge" is to get them given away, before they adhere to my husband's and my hips!!! Enjoyed this one, as well as last week's shortbread. 

carlene's picture
carlene

These cookies were much easier than they looked.  I panicked when I looked at the photo and called my girlfriend for help.  We spent a fun morning baking together.  We both loved them; she liked them better without the chocolate filling. (We ate the pan of the ones that got too brown without filling them with chocolate).  I liked them both ways.   I had almond meal (blanched) that I had purchased from my local health food store and it worked great.   We used a small cookie scoop to put them on the pan instead of piping them.   We didn’t bake the first couple of pans long enough, but found that we could return them to the oven and still get good results.   They go from being perfect to burned in a matter of a seconds.   The ones I took to work and left in the staff lounge were all gone well before lunch.

Carlene

dawkins's picture
dawkins

They've come out really evenly sized and with a great lacy look to them. I guess using the scoop (is that like an ice cream scoop? I don't think I've seen one before) meant you had even-sized portions - nice idea. The browning looks really appetising too: that nice foxy red-brown on the edges looks yummy.

carlene's picture
carlene

Actually it was a melon ball size scoop, yes that helps with uniform size.

Carlene

Elagins's picture
Elagins

you do yourselves (and ITJB) proud!

Stan
www.nybakers.com

gmabaking's picture
gmabaking

Thanks Stan, couldn't have done it without you and Norm!  Have a question about the next challenge baking of Honey Whole Wheat Challah. Don't have any bread flour and I see that the recipe calls for bread or AP flour. I'm wondering if I should I add a little vital wheat gluten to increase the flour power of the AP?

Elagins's picture
Elagins

be judicious.  I wouldn't add more than 1 Tbs of the vital wheat gluten; last thing you want is to toughen the crumb.

SG

gmabaking's picture
gmabaking

Yikes, don't want to chance ruining the Challah. Will stick with your recipe as written. On your web site, the tree with the book and the baked goods is so clever, it was fun looking for the ones I have baked already.

Elagins's picture
Elagins

a little whimsy goes a long way!

Stan

linder's picture
linder

Hi,

Here are my florentines.  They're not as pretty as some but they came out better than I expected.  Using the melon baller is an inspired thought.  I used a measuring teaspoon and tried to work as quickly as possible.   It took every kitchen utensil I had available to use as a cookie baking sheet including the pizza pan lined with parchment paper but it did work out.  The cookies really need to rest on the parchment but off of the hot baking sheet for a few minutes before handling. 

 

carlene's picture
carlene

You are right about leaving them on the parchment to cool.  We used a new parchment sheet for each batch that we baked and just slipped the parchment onto the cooling racks. 

Carlene

bonnibakes's picture
bonnibakes

First, not a great cookie to make on a muggy Florida hot day, but that didn't stop us. Just meant that the cookies maintained a bit of stickiness. I think I should have ground the almonds finer. Wasn't sure if they were supposed to be blanched almonds or not, I used ones with skin on. Like some others I used a small scoop, which worked out well and turned out very uniform cookies. I'm using a new home convection oven so it was hit or miss playing with temperatures. I think if I didn't let the "dough" cool down so much it would have spread out more, creating the classic lace look.

However, everyone who had them loved them. We did some with dark chocolate and others with white chocolate. They actually tasted to me like there was a little coconut in them, although there wasn't. I look forward to making them again when it's dry & cool.

Bonni

 

gmagmabaking2's picture
gmagmabaking2

Love that baking sheet! I will have to look for one of those?

bonnibakes's picture
bonnibakes

Last year, and again this year, Aldi's Supermarket have them available in half sheet sizes for just $5.99 each. Aldi's home company is based in Germany so maybe they're available there too. They have stood up just as well as my expensive Silpats.

Bonni

GermanFoodie's picture
GermanFoodie

I finally got around to making these. They turned out great, if a lot easier than I thought (I'd never made them before). Mine stayed a lot chewier than I expected, even though they were baked long enough - but I think my oven is screwed up, temperature-wise.

I started piping these when the paste was about 155 F, and didn't think that was too hot to handle. I stink at piping stuff like this, though, so I ended up w/ about three different size cookies. That said, you just have to screw things up to a point where it looks intentional - there were enough of each size to put two together, so there. :)

loydb's picture
loydb

These were tasty, I enjoyed the chewy butterscotch and chocolate. I have to agree that I liked them just as much without any chocolate at all. I think if I were to do it again, I'd get some orange-infused bittersweet chocolate for them - my 66% bittersweet/33% milk choc. was too sweet IMO -- I liked the Mohn bars better.

Baking Notes:

  • Panning these up required every flat cooking surface I owned. Fortunately, it was really cold and windy outside, so I could put an (empty) fresh-out-of-the-oven sheet pan on the back porch, and it was cold within 3-4 minutes.
  • I ended up adding an extra half cup of flour to get the batter out of the 'runny' stage
  • Don't put them in a sealed container for the wife to take to school, or they end up adhering to one another...

 

EvaB's picture
EvaB

This is of course one of the must do's from the book, just can't bake it along with you all, so am enjoying the vicarious experience of seeing all of your delicious bakes, and wishing wildly that I had room and time to do it. Maybe I will manage a bake from the book this month, at least the most of the moving furniture etc is done, but I still have tons of stuff to do to get my room ready for sewing, which I want to manage as well, that having been a 2 year project so far! Am getting closer, and now to the difficult part, setting up the sewing end, and doing some shelves for the library end!

linder's picture
linder

I made these with regular flour, my next trick is to try them with oat flour as I have a stepdaughter who has issues with gluten.  I will post them when I have tested them out.

Thanks for a great recipe.

Linda