recipe

Credit: Photography by Earl Carter

Florentines

Annie Smithers is the owner and chef of du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

Credit: Photography by Earl Carter

It seems many of us have returned to a winter of discontent. Bright sparks are few and far between. As restaurant kitchens slumber or pivot, with a near-hysterical glint, to takeaway offerings, I have retreated to my farm looking for some external source of cheerfulness.

It comes in the form of citrus season. As my locale is far too cold for growing citrus en masse, cooking with citrus fruit comes with the added freedom of a purchase, rather than my usual grow it from seed and nurture it approach.

Back in 2018, I discussed on these pages my love of homemade candied citrus peel – something to revisit while we have a little time at home – but this recipe centres more on the use of marmalade.

But, first, a little explanation of where the recipe came from. The Australian culinary landscape has developed into a map where six degrees of separation is a constant. In 2004 Gay Bilson released her cerebral book Plenty: Digressions on Food. On a seaside trip to Robe, South Australia, it was my holiday reading. And in a curious twist, I was staying at Grey Masts, which I discovered was part of Christine Manfield’s origin story. It was a gentle layering of iconic female cooks. Within the pages of Plenty are a number of recipes, one of them for Florentines. I left a ribbon in the page so I could return to it when I was back in the kitchen. I had never been a real fan of Florentine biscuits, but that is probably because the finished product nearly always contains glacé cherries, an ingredient I’m not fond of. Gay’s recipe was more pared back: almonds, honey and finely sliced candied peel. It was rolled after baking so that it was thin and crisp, and then broken into shards, not cut into clunky round biscuits. The recipe worked a treat, yet in those days I had not started candying my own peel and was not convinced by the commercial offerings in this lovely version of a Florentine.

This is where the marmalade came in. Each winter I dutifully make jars and buckets of Seville orange marmalade, a favourite among customers, both in the jar or as part of a duck sauce or melded with cream and used to cook turnips. So I fiddled with Gay’s recipe, removing the honey and candied peel and adding marmalade. I was delighted with the result. The citrus pieces were smaller and the bitterness of the marmalade offset the inherent sweetness of the biscuit.

This winter I will revisit Gay’s recipe, which she notes was a reworking of one from Paula Peck’s The Art of Fine Baking. I will use my own peel and revert to honey. For those who are busy making marmalade though, make sure you don’t give it all away or use it all for toast. It really is a wonderful pantry staple.

Ingredients

Florentines

  • ½ cup castor sugar
  • ½ cup Seville orange marmalade (recipe below, or use quality shop-bought variety)
  • ⅓ cup pure cream
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups flaked almonds
  • 25g plain flour
  • 100g dark chocolate
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Place the sugar, marmalade, cream and butter in a small, heavy-based saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring to combine. Boil until the mixture reaches 116ºC on a candy thermometer.
  3. Combine the almonds and flour. Pour the syrup over the dry mixture and stir to combine.
  4. Grease and line two heavy baking trays with baking paper, then pour half the mixture onto each tray. Smooth out and then bake for 10-15 minutes until golden to slightly darker brown.
  5. Remove from the oven, cool for about three minutes and then roll firmly with a rolling pin. Cool completely.
  6. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Turn the Florentine onto its back, spread with chocolate, refrigerate and then break into shards.
Ingredients

Seville orange marmalade
Makes 9 x 300ml jars

  • 1.5kg Seville oranges
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 3lt water
  • 3kg sugar
Method
  1. Remove the orange rind with a sharp vegetable peeler, julienne and set aside. Remove the pith and set aside.
  2. Slice the orange flesh and add to the julienned rind. Place in a container with the lemon and add the water. Wrap the pith in muslin and add to the container. Refrigerate overnight.
  3. Place all the contents of the container in a pot and bring to the boil. When it looks as if it has reduced by half, remove the bag of pith, pushing out whatever liquid you can. Remove the lemon halves.
  4. Weigh the remaining liquid and orange. You should have three kilograms – if not continue boiling until you do. Once the desired weight is reached, add the sugar and bring to the boil, stirring until the crystals are dissolved.
  5. Boil until the marmalade reaches setting point (about 105ºC). Bottle in sterilised jars, seal and store.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Aug 7, 2021 as "Shards of class".

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Annie Smithers is the owner and chef of du Fermier in Trentham, Victoria. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.