It's beginning to look a lot like... cookies everywhere!!!! Only 5 weeks until Christmas peeps, therefore, I'm starting on all the seasonal bakes and recipes! And I've already seen tons of great recipes flying around, so I've decided it's time for me to start all the festive kitchen activities! As a result... here we go... first seasonal recipe on the blog, and it's no other than delicious Florentine biscuits, that just happen to be vegan...
As a kid, I don't really remember us baking cookies before Christmas. Perhaps we are just more of the cake orientated family 😉 Whatever we didn't bake in cookies, we've made up for it in cakes! Nowadays, baking cookies in a festive season is almost like a ritual. And I can see why! There is SO MUCH fun involved in making any kind of cookies or biscuits!!!
If you are following this blog for a while, you will know that I have a soft spot for cookies. Please see exhibit A: chocolate sugar cookies , exhibit B: chocolate cookies and cream , and exhibit C: double chocolate and almond butter cookies. As you can see, I like cookies and biscuits. And who doesn't??? They just make the world a better place, plus they gave a cup of tea a whole new dimension!
So let me start by telling you, how my adventure with Florentine biscuits started. While visiting Venice last November, we found ourselves in the heaviest downpour ever in the middle of St Mark's Square, drenched and desperate to get the roof over our heads, and a cup of coffee (and a cake or ten 😉 ). Maybe it was pure luck, maybe work of gods, but we've ended up in Cafe Florian. Which, my friends, just happened to be the oldest cafe in Europe.
Once you enter, you will be mesmerized by it's magnificent 19th- century rooms and every single detail inside. Almost like you just traveled in time... Then there's menu. Just to read the whole thing took good 30 minutes, not to mention additional 20 minutes to google the names of some of their specialties.
Somehow, we've managed to make the decision and ordered couple of coffees, and a selection of biscuits/ cookies/ cakes (yup!). And HOLLY COW!!! My mouth never experienced anything like it!!! This was truly the best afternoon tea in the whole universe! So if you ever get a chance, you must visit it for yourself (try not to pass out when you are given the bill 😉 ). Trust me, it's going to be the best cup of coffee in your life accompanied by even better biscuits!
And this is how me and Florentine biscuit met. Since then, they have a special place in my heart. Just in case if you are not familiar with Florentines, they are crisp and crumbly caramel biscuits studded with cherries or any other glace fruits. The underside of the biscuit is usually dipped in chocolate (to make it even better!). Sometimes they are served with jam or cream, sandwiched between two biscuits. Pure YUM, if you ask me...
They are Christmas classic in Italy, and most people believe that the origin of the recipe for this awesome biscuit is in Florence, hence the name. But France and Austria also believe that they are the inventors and claim their right to it.
Maybe I was too optimistic, or maybe I underestimated this great little biscuit, but it took me three attempts to get them right. First batch came out too thin, and caramel didn't melt properly. Second batch- not enough caramel to cover the surface of the biscuit (in the way I wanted it to 😉 ). Third one- BINGO!
As you will see on the pictures, some of them have more caramel topping than others, as it can be a little bit tricky to spread the topping once it sets. So try to work your way through them quickly, as it will become harder and more difficult with time.
Another crucial part: chilling the dough. You must allow at least an hour in the fridge, preferably even longer, because it will be much easier to work with, once it's chilled. Lastly, keep them quite thick, about £1 coin thickness will hold the caramel topping much better and it will give you more of the desired crunch 🙂
So, here we are friends, first seasonal recipe, which I really hope you will love as much as I do (and it's for the fraction of the price you will be charged in Florence or Venice 😉 ). Beautiful, delicious biscuits, which will also work as a perfect gift for friends and family! Use decorative bags or boxes, some seasonal ribbon, and voila! Watch them disappear!
How about you? What's your favorite cookie/ biscuit recipe during holiday season?
Vegan Florentine Biscuits
For the biscuits:
- 175 g butter softened dairy- free if vegan
- 85 g golden caster sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 225 g plain flour plus extra for dusting
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
For Florentine topping:
- 50 g butter dairy free if vegan
- 50 g light brown sugar
- 50 g golden syrup
- ½ tsp salt
- 50 g plain flour
- 75 g glace cherries chopped
- 75 g flaked almonds
- 150 g dark chocolate chopped
- To make the biscuits, put the butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat with an electric whisk until creamy. Add the flour and cinnamon and combine with a spatula to make a soft dough. Form into a ball and wrap in cling film. Chill for at least 1 hour.
- Heat the oven to 180 C and line a baking sheet with parchment.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter, sugar, golden syrup and salt. Remove from the heat and whisk in the flour, then stir in the cherries and almonds. Set aside to cool down and firm up a little.
- Tip the dough into a floured work surface and roll out to the thickness of £1 coin . Using 6cm fluted cookie cutter, stamp out as many circles as you can, then use the trimmings, re-roll the dough and cut out some more.
- Transfer to the baking sheet and spoon some of the Florentine mixture into each biscuit until it's all used up.
- Bake on the middle shelf for 12-15 minutes, until the biscuits are golden and the topping has melted. Leave to cool on the sheet for at least 15 minutes.
- While the biscuits cool, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of gently simmering water. Dip each biscuit about third of the way into the chocolate, then return back to the sheet to set.
This recipe was adapted from Good Food website.