When Not in Florence…

If you’ve been reading Eggs On The Roof for a while, you’ll know that I’m crazy about Italy. It’s true that I went off it briefly when covering the Italian elections for BBC radio – I got propositioned by the leading politician I was interviewing and when I turned him down he pushed me out of his car into the middle of a busy roundabout. But that aside, Italy is pretty perfect.

I’ve just spent the weekend in a part of Italy I’ve never seen before. It’s daft word-association, but Lake Como always makes me think of Perry Como and once I start thinking of crooners in cardigans I decide I’d really rather go somewhere else. But this weekend I put that right – and how beautiful it was.

The low cloud and steady rain gave the landscape the feel of Scotland without the midges. But we timed the rain showers to coincide with cappuccino breaks, lunch breaks, dinner breaks and cocktail breaks. We didn’t get wet at all, just a little plump.

On our final day, we enjoyed the wonderful spectacle of a bride stranded on the pavement, apparently looking for transport. She didn’t seem to mind at all.

Watching the stranded bride from our cafe table, I thought suddenly and inexplicably of the day that my mum brought home a large florentine biscuit from a posh London cake shop. It was in a crisp, white paper bag and it seemed to me to be the most exotic, mysterious and sophisticated thing I had ever seen.

I had a yearning to make florentines when I got back from Como. Italians may shudder at the inaccuracy of my version because I’ve left out the vivid green and red candied fruit. The biscuits I’ve devised taste precisely the same as that magical florentine from all those years ago. Italy may have some shockingly sleazy politicians, but let’s face it, so does everywhere else. But only Italy has florentines.

Florentines

200g mixed nuts. I used equal quantities of cashews, hazelnuts, pecans and almonds

100ml double cream

25g unsalted butter

85g sugar

100g milk chocolate and

50g dark chocolate, melted (you can adjust the balance of milk to dark chocolate if you prefer, but my childhood florentine was most definitely more milk than dark)

Spread the nuts on a metal oven tray and toast them at 180 degrees C for about five minutes. Don’t let them burn. Tip them into a plastic bag and bash them vigorously with a rolling pin. Think of a predatory Italian politician if it helps.

Leave the oven on while you melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the sugar. Add the cream and bubble briefly. Stir in the crushed nuts and mix well. Line two metal baking trays with baking parchment and spoon dollops of mixture onto the paper. Keep them very well spaced out. You should have enough for around 12 florentines. Bake them in the oven for no more than 8 minutes – they burn easily. Don’t be alarmed if the circles run into each other – mine did. Just push them back into shape with the back of a spoon and allow then to cool for a few minutes. They should set, although they will still be a little delicate at this stage. Turn them over so the flat side is pointing upwards and with a teaspoon coat them with the dark and milk melted chocolate.

This part is really important. They have to have wiggly lines on the back. I have no idea why, they just do. When the chocolate is semi-set, sculpt the wiggles with a fork.

 

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22 thoughts on “When Not in Florence…

  1. My best friend was married in the English church on Lake Como and arrived for the wedding by boat … so maybe the bride is waiting for her boat to arrive!
    It was just like your picture. And the wedding party attracted quite a crowd of onlookers.

  2. The bride was certainly beaming very happily, but she looked very incongruous amongst all the tourists in shorts. Your best friend's wedding must have been wonderful. An Italian wedding sounds terribly glamorous to an Italy-lover like me.
    Charlie

  3. Lovely photos. I'm still editing all my photos from my wedding/honeymoon in Tuscany last month. I love all things Italian too.

  4. I have no idea what the lines are for, but they're etched into my memory – I'm glad you know what I'm on about…

  5. And Florentines are the one thing I always bring back from the UK. Have always wanted to try making them too, and your use of mixed nuts is a real take.
    I remember the ones in paper/cellophane-fronted bags in our local little (private) supermarket. Now replaced by Fudges. But they had the wiggly lines, you got them down to a tee!

  6. It's so satisfying to hear your reaction to the wiggly lines, Zoeh. There's something about those wiggles!

  7. Did that really happen? Oh now, why doesn't it surprise me of an Italian politician?

    This post has brought back such wonderful memories of Italy. Living in Milan, it was the nicest thing to drive up to the lakes and we did it often, trying to visit the lakes and islands, one more beautiful than the next? Your photos are simply beautiful.

  8. Okay, I am embarrassed to say, but I was so swept away by your evocative photos of Italy and Lake Como and all my memories that rushed to the forefront, I skipped the recipe! I love florentines but have never made them before. Yours are fabulous! Hmmm now I am tempted to try…

  9. Hi Jamie and thank you so much. I'm very envious – living in Milan must have been amazing. Italy is a wonderful country, although the politician in the roundabout scuffle probably went on to even greater professional success. x

  10. ps Jamie, my children ate all twelve florentines between last night and this morning. And I only have two children…

  11. Altogether a lovely post. Great photos and delicious-looking florentines. You have made them sound much more straightforward to make than I imagined.

  12. Just discovered your blog, and I'm very glad I did 🙂
    I'm very sorry you had to deal with a sleazy politician…most Italian politicians make feel ashamed I'm Italian!
    I never had a florentine, but yours must be delicious, with all those nuts and the chocolate…mmm

  13. Hi Cristina Thank you so much for commenting and a big welcome to Eggs On The Roof. I love Italy enough to ignore the sleazy politicians. It's a beautiful country.
    Charlie

  14. LOL – I thought I was the only person who thinks of Perry Como and his cardies when Lake Como is mentioned!! Clearly not. I am amazed I got to the end of this post – my eyes kept returning to "pushed me out of his car into the middle of a busy roundabout" – surely this is worth a post on its own, if not a mini-series?! I have always had a complete weakness for florentines – yours look fabulous. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Glad to hear that I'm not mad when it comes to Perry Como word associations. As to the sleazy politician, it's one of those events that seems even worse as time goes by!

  16. What a truly terrifying reflection of Italian politics, but a great story now you're at a safe distance
    I love Florentines, my Pa who is restrained around sweet things (unlike his wife and daughters) can't resist them either. Yours look amazing

  17. Hi oxslip
    It really was a bizarre experience, but luckily I escaped unscathed by either the politician or Rome's crazy traffic.
    I'm so pleased you like the look of the florentines.
    Charlie

  18. Precioso blog, maravillosas fotografias y estupendas recetas, ademas de interesantes articulos. Saludos desde Madrid.

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