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Gluten Free Florentines – A simple (Christmas) tradition
These Gluten Free Florentines are so irresistible, they should carry an ‘addiction warning’. At GFHQ they never last long. Indeed they have been declared by friends and family as the best Florentines ever! The perfect combination of chewy-yet-crisp, caramel-coated carefully paired fruit and nuts… all on a crisp base of chocolate. They are one of the joys of Christmas. And they are so easy to make, it would be rude not to give some as gifts as well.
But why keep them just for Christmas? A cookie (or biscuit) this good deserves to be enjoyed ALL YEAR! They may be less available in the shops at other times, but having a great recipe means there are no limits to when or how you can indulge. Whether as part of Afternoon Tea, at Easter, as an after-dinner treat or just because you love them… My Gluten Free Florentines are a simple delight that will bring happiness with every bite.
What is a Florentine?
Florentines are at their heart, simple biscuits made with caramel-coated dried fruit and nuts (most usually almonds), baked until golden. Once cooled, the base is coated with chocolate that is marked with a traditional ‘wavy’ pattern.
The origin of Florentines is hotly debated. And while the Italians would like to claim them as their own, it is most likely (according to food historians) that they originated in 17th Century France. Whoever and wherever they started life, I am grateful for their delicious creation. Christmas at GFHQ wouldn’t quite be the same without them.
What ingredients are needed to make Gluten Free Florentines?
The base ingredients for Florentines vary from recipe to recipe. Indeed, some are naturally flourless and by default gluten free. However, I personally prefer a Florentine that has a little height and greater substance. Thus I choose to add a small amount of flour to the mix.
To make my Gluten Free Florentines recipe, you need:
- Dried Fruit – I use a combination of cranberries, glacé cherries and raisins, which offer a divine juxtaposition of tangy and sweet.
- Nuts – Traditional flaked almonds. However, rough-chopped pistachios in the mix give colour and flavour contrast.
- Salt – Just a pinch! To enhance all the deliciousness on the tongue.
- Butter – Unsalted. If using salted butter, don’t add the listed salt as well.
- Soft Light Brown Sugar – To make a perfectly rich and deeply-flavoured caramel coating for the fruit.
- Plain gluten free flour blend – The recipe should work well with many plain commercial or home-mixed blends. But do not use one that has added xanthan gum.
- Double Cream – For making the melted sugar and butter into rich and creamy caramel. Heavy cream, whipping cream or similar alternatives will work equally well.
- Chocolate – Dark, milk or white (Callets or chopped)… To coat the base of the baked Florentines.
Should Florentines be thick or thin?
Whether you make Gluten Free Florentines thick or thin is a matter of preference. The mixture will naturally spread into a thin puddle on the baking tray. But to make it round, it needs to be pulled back towards the centre. At this point, you can choose to go thick or thin… More finely spread or smaller and chunky.
I like my Gluten Free Florentines to be chunkier (and by default a little chewier). Therefore I push the edges back into more of a pile before cooling and chocolate-coating.
Make Florentines in a muffin tin… It’s the simplest way!
Traditional process dictates that Florentines are baked on a tray, spreading wide as they heat and melt. However, the process of pulling the mixture back into a circle after baking can be pretty fiddly. The baked Florentine Cookies harden quickly making the shaping process even trickier. Thus, they are best baked in very small batches (of no more than 3 or 4) both to fit them on the baking trays and to get them shaped while they are still soft enough to manipulate.
I figured there must be an easier way. So I tried making them using a non-stick muffin tin… spooning a thin layer of the mixture into the base of each hole. It worked perfectly. While they needed an extra couple of minutes of baking time (as the mixture stays thicker), my Gluten Free Florentines cooked just as they should. And (better still) they came out uniform in both shape and texture, making them super-neat to box up as gifts.
Tips for making Gluten Free Florentines
- Prepare all the equipment before you start… Because you need to work quickly to shape the Florentines as soon as they come out of the oven.
- Cook in small batches, rotating a couple of trays to make them. I set a limit of baking no more than 3 or 4 Florentines at a time (when using the baking tray method). This gave me just enough time to shape them all before they set.
- If the Florentines harden too much before shaping, remove the ones that are done onto a separate sheet of baking paper using a palette knife and pop the tray of unshaped Florentines back into the oven for a few seconds to re-soften.
- OR… Make them in a properly NON STICK muffin tin! And just bake them a little longer. It removes all the fiddliness of shaping them by hand.
- Stir the ingredients in the pan continually when making the caramel. And heat gently. Burnt caramel will create bitterness and taste unpleasant.
- Don’t over-boil the caramel.
- Wait for the Florentines to firm up before moving them from the trays.
- Remove any excess oil from the bottom of the biscuits by placing for a few seconds on some absorbent kitchen paper/roll.
- Cool completely before coating with chocolate.
Tips for base-coating with Chocolate
Whether you coat Gluten Free Florentines with dark, milk or white chocolate is up to you… But chocolate is notoriously temperamental to melt, so these tips may help:
- Melt chocolate in a heat-proof (Pyrex) glass bowl.
- Dark Chocolate: Can be melted in a microwave or set over a gently simmering pan of water. However, be sure to heat on no more than medium (maximum 30-second bursts) in the microwave… And to make sure the bowl never touches simmering water on the hob.
- Take off the heat before the chocolate completely melts to avoid burning and stir until smooth.
- Milk and White Chocolate: are better melted set over a gently simmering pan of water (OR with the base of the bowl standing in very warm (NOT boiling) water). Stir frequently and heat gently.
- NEVER let ANY liquid get into the chocolate bowl. This will cause it to seize and make it unusable.
- For a shinier finish with less risk of ‘blooming’ (particularly with dark chocolate), the chocolate can be tempered. Given the chocolate is on the base of the Florentines, tempering is less critical, but does make them look more appealing. I’ve included simple instructions for ‘rough tempering’ on the recipe card, which seems to work well enough for this recipe with less reliance on precision.
- Work quickly when coating the Florentines so the chocolate remains stable, yet liquid enough to spread.
- Coat about 3 Florentines then immediately use a fork to mark the characteristic wiggly line before the chocolate clogs. Repeat until all the Florentines are finished.
- If the chocolate becomes too ‘gloopy’… Warm it again with gentle heat only and for just long enough to make it loose.
- Cool and set Florentines on baking paper chocolate side up.
Making Gluten Free Florentines unique
There are no hard and fast rules about how you flavour your Gluten Free Florentines as long as the base recipe and ratios remain stable. Here are a few ideas for variation and to make your Florentines unique…
- Use different dried fruit – Any combination of standard dried fruit (NOT freeze-dried) is possible. Just make sure it’s chopped into small enough chunks to blend with the caramel. Think sultanas, apricots, mango, blueberries… Or even pineapple, papaya, goji berries and stem ginger.
- Add some citrus – Freshly grated zest (lemon, lime or orange) will bring a whole new zingy dimension to your Florentines.
- Switch the nuts – Every nut has a different flavour, aroma, colour and personality. Which you use will make an individual Florentine statement. Favourites (other than standard flaked almonds) are Pistachios for their colour… Walnuts for earthiness… Pecans for richness… Hazelnuts for a nutty sweetness… Or try Brazil nuts, Cashews, Peanuts or Macadamia nuts. Just ensure the nuts are chopped to an appropriate size to work well in the cookies.
- Throw in some seeds – Pumpkin seeds are particularly pretty and flavoursome.
- Switch the chocolate – While my favourite for Gluten Free Florentines remains dark chocolate (as it off-sets the sweetness of the caramel), there are no rules. Feel free to use, milk or white chocolate on all or part of the batch for variation.
Other seasonal gluten free treats you might like…
- Homemade Marzipan Chocolates and Nut Free Marzipan Chocolates
- Chocolate Salami
- Soft Italian Amaretti Cookies (Amaretti Morbidi)
- Vegan Chocolate Amaretti Cookies
- Mini Meringue Bites
- German Gingerbread Cookies (Lebkuchen)
- Decadent Chocolate Truffles
- Gingerbread Cookies
- Brandy Snaps
- Lemon Crinkle Cookies
- Chocolate Chip Shortbread
- Gluten Free Biscotti (Cantuccini)
- Chocolate Marzipan Cherries
Ready to make Gluten Free Florentines?
The recipe for my Gluten Free Florentines is below. I hope you love them.
Shout if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them. You can leave a comment, email, or message me on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest). And if you love them, feel free to let me know that too. It makes my day!
For lots more foodie inspiration, head over to my Gluten Free Recipe Index for hundreds of free recipes. And if you haven’t already, make sure you Subscribe to my newsletter for updates, gluten free finds and tips, Coeliac news and more…
Shared with my love
Gluten Free Florentines
- oven + hob
- flat-bladed knife
- absorbent kitchen paper
Fruit and Nut Mix
- 30 g dried cranberries
- 40 g glacé cherries (roughly chopped)
- 40 g golden raisins or standard raisins/sultanas
- 80 g flaked almonds
- 40 g unsalted shelled pistachios (roughly chopped)
- big pinch fine sea salt
- 50 g unsalted butter
- 100 g soft light brown sugar
- 15 g plain gluten free flour blend (with NO added xanthan gum)
- 60 g double cream (heavy cream)
- 150 g dark/milk/white chocolate Callets or finely chopped
- Line a couple of large baking sheets with baking paper.
- Preheat the oven to 170 Fan/180 C/350 F.
- Mix all the ingredients listed under ‘Fruit & Nut Mix’ and set aside.
- In a medium-sized non-stick saucepan, weigh the butter, brown sugar and flour.
- Set the pan over medium heat on the hob and stir continually with a wooden/silicone spoon for about 5 minutes, until the butter has completely melted and the mixture is starting to bubble.
- Remove the pan from the heat, but continue to stir.
- Add the double cream about a third at a time and stir until well-blended.
- Pop back on the heat and cook briefly (about 2 minutes) until bubbling gently (still stirring).
- Take off the heat again and add the fruit and nut mix to the pan, stirring well until the fruit is evenly distributed and coated with caramel.
- Working in batches of about 3 to 4 at a time, spoon small rounded piles (about a heaped teaspoonful) of the mixture onto a prepared baking tray, with a wide gap between each as they will spread a lot in the oven. (Alternatively, you can use a couple of NON STICK muffin trays and divide the mixture evenly between about 16 to 18 muffin holes. Make sure it's properly non-stick or the bases of the florentines will stick).
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 9 minutes (or if using muffin tins about 11 to 12 minutes), until just starting to darken at the edges.
- Remove from the oven and working quickly (as the Florentines will set), use a flat knife or silicone spatula to pull the edges towards the centre of each, creating circle shapes. Be very careful as the mixture is very hot. As it cools, finish shaping with your fingers while the caramel is still soft.
- If the Florentines harden too much before shaping, remove the ones that are done onto a separate sheet of baking paper using a palette knife and pop the tray of unshaped Florentines back into the oven for a few seconds to re-soften. (For Florentines made in a muffin tin, remove from the oven and set aside to cool in the tin).
- Once shaped, leave the Florentines on the baking paper to cool for about 15 minutes, before transferring to some kitchen roll to remove excess butter oil (a few seconds) and then to a wire rack to cool and harden completely.
- While cooling, pop the next batch of Florentines in the oven to cook and continue the above process until all the mixture has been used.
Base-coating the Florentines with Chocolate
- When the Florentines are completely cold, they can be base-coated with melted chocolate.
- Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl (Pyrex glass for best results). For a shinier finish, dark chocolate (in particular) should be ‘tempered’. Although, because the chocolate is on the base of the Florentines, I use a rough method for this…
- Separate and set aside about a third of the Callets/chopped chocolate.
- Transfer the rest (about two-thirds the full weight) to a Pyrex (heatproof) glass bowl.
- Gently heat the chocolate either in the microwave (set at low to medium – 10 to 30 second bursts (max)), or over a steaming/gently simmering pan of water), stirring intermittently.
- When the chocolate has just melted, remove from the heat and add the third that was set aside.
- Gently stir through until melted and smooth. If any remaining chunks won’t melt, pop the bowl back over the steam for a few seconds (or in the microwave at LOW temperature for 5 seconds only at a time) and re-stir. You don’t want the chocolate to heat up, but it may need a little gentle warmth to encourage the last melts.
Coating the Florentines
- While the chocolate is very liquid, spread across the base of each Florentine with a flat knife. Set aside on some baking parchment chocolate side up. Then use a fork lightly across the surface to create a wiggly line. TIP: coat and then ‘wiggle’ a maximum of about 3 Florentines at a time, or the chocolate may be too firm to mark neatly.
- Set aside for the chocolate to harden completely.
© 2019-2024 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist