For this month’s Suma Blogger’s Network entry, I though I’d share one of my latest treat obsessions – Vegan Florentines ♥
I’ve been dreaming about Florentines ever since I saw them on display in the patisserie shops of Venice and Florence a few years ago. I’d never seen anything quite like them before. They looked so dainty yet totally decadent with their dark chocolate bottoms! I was pretty sure that they’d be full of dairy and off limits to me, but I was excited about the thought of creating a vegan version one day.
This week I finally got round to a little Florentine experimentation in the kitchen.
After a quick internet search, I discovered that Florentines are typically made with cane sugar, honey, butter, candied cherries, candied citrus peel and almonds. Since I’m not a fan of the first 4 ingredients, and I know a lot of my readers aren’t keen on candied peel, I ended up subbing 5 of the 6 ingredients. The almonds stayed 😉
The cane sugar and honey was swapped for coconut sugar and maple syrup, which gave the Florentines a wonderful golden hue and caramel-like sweetness. Instead of candied cherries and citrus peel, I used dried cranberries and orange zest. This gave the Florentines a fresh, citrussy flavour which I absolutely loved. The butter was exchanged for non dairy spread or organic aroma-free coconut butter.
I’ve done 6 trials so far this week, playing around with different ingredient ratios and combos. All have tasted delicious, but I was striving to bake a Florentine that was super thin with the traditional ‘lacey’ texture on the underside. By the 4th trial, I’d cracked it.
Once cooled, I then added the classic Florentine wavy chocolate bottom.
These Florentines are my new treat obsession. I absolutely love their texture – crisp on the outside, chewy in the centre with a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate bottom. Plus the flavour combination is so lush. The citrus zest gives them a wonderful lift while the dark chocolate makes them feel decadent.
Another great thing about this biscuit is that each one only contains 1 tsp of mixture which, in my eyes, makes it totally acceptable to go back for a second or third 🙂
‘M’ and Lil’ L seem to love them as much as me. I’ve made 72 so far this week, and there are very few left in the biscuit tin! I also took along a sample to my Tuesday night study class and they were a big hit!
[Recipes updated 22nd July 2015]
If possible, I recommend weighing the ingredients rather than using tablespoons as it’s more precise. I find that the shape and ‘lacieness’ of the Florentines varies depending on the size of the fruit and nut pieces, and the type of flour or fat used. Regardless of their shape, all are totally delicious!
Hands-on time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 8 minutes
Ready in: 40 minutes
27g / 1 oz / 3 rounded TBSP flaked almonds
27g / 1 oz / 3 TBSP dried cranberries*
Zest of ½ unwaxed / organic orange
27g / 1 oz / 2 TBSP non dairy spread or organic aroma-free coconut butter
27g / 1 oz / 3 TBSP coconut sugar
27g / 1 oz / 1½ TBSP maple syrup
18g / 2/3 oz / 2 TBSP fine wholemeal (whole wheat), chapatti or gluten-free flour mix
80g / 3 oz dark chocolate or 1/2 cup dark choc chips
* I’m still on the lookout for organic cane sugar-free dried cranberries. Organic cranberries are available from Suma, but they’re sweetened with sugar. Cranberries sweetened with fruit extract are available from supermarkets such as Waitrose and Tesco, but they aren’t organic.
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) / 350F. Line two large baking sheets with non stick baking paper.
Place the almonds in a frying pan (skillet) and dry fry for a few minutes, stirring regularly. As soon as they start to brown and become fragrant, tip them onto a plate and leave to cool. Once cool, finely chop the nuts or scrunch them in your hands to break them up.
Finely chop the cranberries. Zest the orange.
In a small pan, gently heat the non dairy spread / coconut butter. Once it has melted, whisk in the sugar and syrup. Remove from the heat and whisk in the flour until fully incorporated. Stir in the nuts and fruits. You want to get the mixture as uniform as possible so that the Florentines spread evenly as they bake.
Drop six rounded teaspoons of mixture onto one baking sheet. Be sure to space them out well to give them room to spread. Add another six teaspoons to the second baking sheet. Using damp fingers, press down on the Florentines to flatten slightly and shape into circles.
Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 8 minutes, or until the edges of the Florentines have browned. Leave to cool. (They will be very soft when they come out the oven, but they firm up as they cool).
Once the Florentines are completely cool, prepare the chocolate coating. Place the chocolate pieces in a heat proof bowl set over a pan with an inch or so of water (make sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl). Gently heat the water and stir the chocolate until it has fully melted. Remove from the heat. If the chocolate is very runny, keep stirring it until it has thickened slightly. Using a knife, coat the bottom of each Florentine with chocolate, then wiggle a fork along the chocolate to form a wavy pattern. Leave the chocolate to set.
The Florentines will keep for a week or so in an airtight container. In warm houses, it’s best to store them in the fridge. They also freeze really well so it’s worth making a double batch and freezing some. That way, you’ll have a stash ready for coffee mornings, surprise visitors or whenever a sweet craving strikes.
Unwaxed Citrus Fruits
Unwaxed lemons are widely available, but unwaxed oranges are a little harder to come by. In the UK, they are currently available in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco. If you’re only able to find waxed oranges, you’ll find tips online on how to remove the wax. The wax on citrus fruits often contains shellac (from the lac beetle) or beeswax, making them unsuitable for vegans. Organic citrus fruits are unwaxed, which makes them vegan friendly 🙂
You’ll find Suma products available to purchase in UK independent health food shops. You can also bulk buy many of their products from Amazon.