Sunday 15 August 2010

Florentines, salads and what's in a name

I love Florentines. You can buy them in lots of cafes and they are usually a safe bet. They are a healthier options with dried fruit but have enough chocolate to satisfy a sweet craving and, best of all, they don’t tend to dry out in the way cakes do in café displays. When I found a recipe with condensed milk, I decided I had to try making these myself.

My recipe was adapted from one by Karen Martini. I did a quick search for alternatives and found out that there are more than one types of Florentines. The ones that I made had lots of cornflakes, dried fruit and condensed milk, but no flour or butter. This seems to be an Australian style recipe. Many are more like biscuits with flour, cream, honey, sometimes oats or egg. The cornflakes one are quite chunky while the flour ones tend to be thinner and chewier.

This weekend I was reminded of how a term can mean different things to different people. We went to the Duchess of Spotswood café with my sister Fran and her partner John. I was pleased to be able to order a ploughman’s lunch because in my experience they are always generous with salad. So when the menu said it has cheese, toast, pickled veg and salad, I thought it was the dish for me. Unfortunately the salad was a small pile of lettuce. I was most displeased. To me salad does not equal lettuce!

I am glad we went to the Duchess of Spotswood. It was nice to get out to the Western Suburbs and the place has an elegant simplicity, if a little minimalistic for my tastes. But they seem to appreciate meat more than a good serving of vegetables so it is just not the place for me. (I know it looks like two men kissing in the background of this photo but I think it is an optical illusion!)

Just as my idea of salad is different to some, some you might find your idea of Florentines different to this one. If you prefer yours thin and elegant, you might not like the chunky ones that I made. But in our household they have gone down a treat. So let me tell you a little about this recipe.

Firstly, I was surprised at how many cornflakes were required by the recipe. I bought a box specially to make Florentines and used almost the whole box. I ended up making 45 biscuits – almost twice as many as the recipe said. Perhaps I should have piled them up more, though they already seemed quite big and took up more of my biscuit trays then usual. Fortunately the cornflakes stayed crispy in the mixture while I baked quite a few batches, slowed down even more by Sylvia in her highchair in the kitchen.

Sylvia has started to get itchy feet. Halfway thought dinner she decides she will climb out of her highchair or while waiting at the supermarket she wants to get out of the trolley. It means I have to keep my eye on her and can give less attention to baking biscuits.

The baked biscuits reminded me a little of honey joys. We used to make these often in my childhood by baking cornflakes, honey and butter in cupcake papers. The Florentines were more adult with lots of interesting dried fruit. In fact the whole recipe reminded me of breakfast – cornflakes, milk, fruit and some sugar. Plus chocolate!

I melted as much chocolate as the recipe said but, given that I made a lot more biscuits, I only had enough to spread chocolate on about half the biscuits. I intended to melt more chocolate later for the rest but they tasted so good, even without chocolate, that I never did. The ones with chocolate developed what I think is called ‘bloom’ – a slight cloudy blemish on the surface. I think I might have got rid of this by tempering the chocolate but am not sure (any advice on this is welcome).

E was suspicious of them but once tried, he loved them. Sylvia loved them – though she only had bits without chocolate. I offered them to a friend, Will, who turned his nose up at the idea of the dried fruit. So they are not everyone’s cuppa tea. But they tick all my boxes. I love anything with condensed milk, dried fruit and chocolate. Perfect any time of day and easy to take anywhere.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Potato boston bun
This time two years ago: WTSIM ... Beer Bread
This time three years ago: Collingwood children’s farm – peppercorn trees and vegetarian hens

adapted from Karen Martini
makes 25-45

  • 1 tin (395g) condensed milk
  • 250g cornflakes
  • 100g sour dried cherries (or glace cherries), roughly chopped
  • 160g dried fruit (I used nectarine, apricots, sultanas and dried peel)
  • lemon or orange zest (I didn’t use this because I used dried peel)
  • 150g slivered almonds, or chopped nuts (I only had 110g)
  • 250g dark chocolate (or more if required)

Mix condensed milk, cornflakes, cherries, dried fruit and almonds in a large bowl. Drop 1-2 dessertspoonfuls onto a baking tray and try to shape them into circles with the spoon or your fingers.

Bake for 10 minutes at 180 C. They will be golden brown and crisp when ready. Sit on tray for about 5 minutes and then remove to a wire rack using an eggflip or spatuala. Cool.

When cooled, melt the chocolate and use a knife to spread on the flat underside of the biscuit. Make pretty swirls with a fork and let set on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container (Mine have lasted from Wednesday til Sunday and still are crisp).

On the stereo
Let no man steal your thyme: the Shelagh McDonald collection


  1. I cannot believe that was classified as a
    " salad"!!

  2. Mmmmmm, naughtily lovely! I am freading Cooper getting to that stage, he is already crawling backwards across the room and that is bad enough!

  3. These look very yummy indeed and I like the swirly chocolate tops. I suspect tempering is probably your answer, but I still haven't managed to get my head around trying to do this -all sounds a bit too scientific!

  4. These look so tasty! I would never have thought to make my own florentines! Great job!

  5. Your florentines look delicious & I agree that was definitely not a salad!

  6. Yum, florentines! I have not had them in a long time, but they were in my mum's baking rotation. I think hers were more on the thin side, though they still contained plenty of fruit and nuts.

  7. Oh, Johanna. Why oh why would you put dried peel in these? ;) Regardless, they look fantastic, and I'm pretty sure I could make 'em just as tasty without the peel. I can't help liking the look of your ploughman's lunch, too, despite the salad travesty!

  8. Thanks Jess - so it is not just me!

    Thanks Jacqueline - good luck with the backward crawling - am sure cooper will have fun exploring all those places he can now reach!

    Thanks Choclette - that is comforting to know that other chocolate lovers don't find tempering easy either!

    Thanks Lisa - I think I was inspired by the recipe by Karen Martini in the Age one weekend many moons ago and am glad I have finally made them

    Thanks Vicki - am sure us bloggers could teach them what a real salad is

    Thanks Cindy - would love to hear what recipe your mum used - I don't think my mum made them - definitely not on regular rotation

    Thanks Hannah - you should give dried peel another chance - I hated it when I was little - but if you really don't like it (and it isn't that easy to buy anyway) then you can make it with lemon or orange zest! And you are welcome to my ploughman's lunch too - it was nice but not really my sort of thing.

  9. I have mixed feelings on dried fruit but I'm definitely with you on the condensed milk! I've never seen florentines made with cornflakes before and love the idea.

  10. Be still my beating heart - I love florentines! I made Karen's recipe for Christmas cookies a couple of years back - loved them, but the big disadvanatge is that thye went soft fairly quickly.

  11. These are definitely up my alley! I never was entirely sure what was in florentines, anyway, so corn flakes sound good to me! Of course anything spread with chocolate is welcome. ;) And yes, I did think that photo was of two men kissing!

  12. I make a similar florentine, but instead of baking them, I make a toffee (to hard crack) out of brown sugar and honey, then pour it over the dry ingredients, stir like amd and push the sticky mix into egg rings before it all goes too cold to move around. The toffee base makes the florentines extra crunchy.

    I also add shredded coconut to the mix, and instead of spreading chocolate on them, I take them out of hte egg moulds, pour dark chcolate back into the egg mould, and then push the floretine back down on the melted chocolate. Makes them sit flat.

    An excellent treat for the gluten intolerant / coeliacs in your life (but don't forget to use GF cornflakes!)


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