Mary Berry’s Florentines

 

florentines04 florentines07This week was biscuit week on Great British Bake Off and the technical challenge that the bakers had to complete were Mary Berry’s florentines.  Now, to help clarify, in the UK, biscuits aren’t simply synonymous with cookies. Biscuits tend to be a bit crispy or crunchy, whereas a cookie tends to be softer and chewier, especially in the center. It gets extra confusing when they make savory biscuits (with cheese and stuff in them), because in my head, those are crackers. Cookies are sweet and they certainly don’t have cheese in them!  Oh well, another one of those epicurean curiosities of living in another country.

I decided to continue in my theme this season and follow along with all of the technical challenges, so I looked up Mary’s recipe that was used for the show to give these nutty, fruity, crunchy biscuits a go.  They were a bit trickier than last week’s cherry cake, but that’s because you have to be very precise when measuring them out so that they’re all equal. And even then, a couple of mine spread unevenly.

 

Ingredients

  • 50 grams butter
  • 50 grams demerara sugar (this is brown, unprocessed granulated sugar, sometimes called raw sugar in the States.)
  • 50 grams golden syrup (this is a sort of maple-syrup type thing, but lighter. You could substitute a really thick honey for a similar flavor.)
  • 50 grams flour
  • 25 grams dried cranberries or glacé cherries, finely chopped
  • 50 grams candied peel, finel chopped
  • 25 grams almonds, finely chopped
  • 25 grams walnut pieces, finely chopped
  • 200 grams plain chocolate, chopped into chunks

florentines01Directions

1. First, preheat your oven to 350° F (175°C). Line a few baking trays with baking paper, and set aside.

2. In a small pan over low heat, add the butter, sugar, and golden syrup. Heat gently until the butter melts. Once melted, remove the pan from the heat and add in the rest of your ingredients (except the chocolate!). It’ll form into a sticky, gooey mixture.

3. Now this is where it gets a bit tricky. You need to divide the dough into 18 biscuits. In theory, you could just add up all the weights and divide by 18 (so 18 grams each), but nope! Because the mixture is so sticky, you’re bound to lose a bit of weight to bits getting stuck to your hands or spoon or everything. So I measured mine out to be between 15 and 16 grams each to be sure I had that covered. Place each of your 18 dough balls evenly across your prepared baking sheets, making sure there’s plenty of room for them to spread.

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4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until they turn a dark, golden brown around the edges. Remove them from the oven to cool, then carefully move them to a wire rack for the next stage. To quote Mary, the should have a “nice lacy texture” to them, with the edges uneven and you should be able to see through them a bit.

5. Temper your chocolate by heating half of it in a heatproof bowl over a pan of water on medium heat. Once it’s melted, remove the bowl from the heat and add in the rest of the chocolate. This should make your chocolate nice and shiny when it sets.

florentines02florentines066. Using a palette knife, or offset spatula, gently coat the underside of your biscuit with the chocolate, and then place it upside down on a wire rack to set. Once the chocolate begins to set up, drag a fork back and forth through the chocolate to create the “signature zig zag” look. Then allow the chocolate to cool and set completely.

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That’s it! Job done! I’m pretty sure my florentines would have landed me in the Top 5 for the technical challenge. 😉florentines05

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Chocolate and Sour Cherry Bread

sourcherrybread

Happy New Year, bakers!

My blog is now officially one year old. Some weeks it was a struggle, but I managed to bake something nearly every week. (There were a few I missed due to travelling.) But I said I’d do it, and I did!

Ben and I flew back to the US to visit my family for the holidays. We visited lots of people, shared many laughs, and ate lots of food. So much food that I think we were sick of the sight of it by the end of the trip!  After a couple of weeks off, we’re both ready to get back into gear.

The question on everyone’s lips at home was asking about Great British Bake Off – well, at this point, I haven’t heard anything about my audition or if I’m invited to the next round. I’ve got everything crossed in hopes I’ll hear something soon though! If anything, no news is good news because it means I’m still in contention!

I didn’t bake last weekend because we landed Sunday morning and were severely jetlagged, so I had to wait until this weekend to get back to baking.

One of the books I got over the holidays was Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads. Seeing as I need to beef up my bread-making skills, it was perfect. It has so many great flavors and recipes to try – and many of them are perfect for adding my own flair too!  So this week’s recipe comes from his book, I didn’t adjust too much, except for using a different yeast (I used active dry yeast rather than instant) because it was all I had in the cupboard. But this bread still turned out amazing!

It has a wonderfully crisp crust and the flavor is fantastic. I could have eaten both loaves in one sitting – but then I’d get fat. So instead, I sent one home with Ben’s mom, who stopped by today for a visit, and split the other one with Ben.

photobooth

Oh! I almost forgot to mention: one of my Christmas gifts from my grandmother was a pop-up photo studio with lights and everything! Hopefully now that means I won’t have to worry as much about the awful lighting in my flat, and hopefully my photography will get better this year – that’s the goal for 2013!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups strong white flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 15 grams (2 packets) active dry yeast
  • warm water (about a cup, but you may need more)
  • 1 can black cherries (make sure you take the stones out and roughly chop them)
  • 200 grams chocolate chips

Directions

1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, olive oil, and yeast. Be sure to keep the yeast away from the salt to start with – as salt kills yeast. Slowly add warm water and mix until you get a soft, pliable dough. Only add enough water to bring everything together, you don’t want the dough to be too wet.

2. Once everything is mixed, turn your dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 or 6 minutes. (I tested it to see how stretchy it was before I finished kneading.) Coat your bowl with a bit of oil, then place the dough back in, cover and let rise for an hour.

3. Once the dough has risen, line two baking sheets with some baking paper then divide your dough into two halves. Add half of your cherries to each half, then mix them into the dough. Add a bit more flour if the dough gets too wet, just work it in as you work in the cherries.

4. Next, add in the chocolate chips; again, splitting them between both halves and working them into the dough so everything is pretty much evenly distributed.

5. Form your dough into two balls, then place on your baking sheet. Gently press them down, flattening them until they’re about 2 inches thick. Dust them heavily with flour and score diagonal lines into the top with a sharp blade. Set both of them aside to rise for an hour.

6. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Once heated, bake both loaves of bread for 20-25 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool so that the bottoms don’t get soggy.

sourcherrybread_2This bread tastes fantastic, especially as a bed-time snack!!