Week 2 of the 2014 GBBO Challenge and it’s BISCUIT WEEK! This week’s challenges were:
Signature Bake – Savoury biscuits // Technical Challenge – Florentines // Show Stopper – 3D Biscuit Scene
I couldn’t believe how amazing some of the bakes were – Luis’ 3D George and the Dragon biscuit scene looked AMAZING! I was tempted to try my hand at a batch of savoury crackers as I’ve never made these before, but my boyfriend fancied something sweet so I went for Florentines, which I’ve also never baked (or eaten!) before. As Technical Challenges go, it seemed like a pretty easy one, with the bakers only really struggling when it came to decorating their biscuits with chocolate. I could definitely make them with no problems…right?!
….Well yes and no! I was feeling pretty happy with myself whilst baking these little biscuits and all seemed to be going really well! The recipe was super simple – chopping, melting and stirring – job done! When they came out of the oven they were a gorgeous golden brown colour, had a light, lacy consistency and were nice and thin with a good distribution of fruit and nuts. Hurrah! However when it came to getting them off the baking tray and onto the cooling racks, I started to come into difficulty!
The mixture was so soft yet turned brittle and hard very quickly. It was difficult to find the point where they were cooked enough to get off the baking parchment in one piece, without cooling too much and being impossible to lift up without having paper stuck to the bottom which would not come off! I actually had to throw away my first 6 (as they mostly fell apart and the ones which were left had a layer of paper on the bottom which would not come off for love nor money!) Once I got the second 6 on the cooling racks, lots of the soft mixture fell though the gaps and either fell apart, or set in curved and dipped shapes. Noooo!! I decided for my third batch to set them onto a small plastic rack which is actually part of my cake box, and has a much closer set grid, so less space for the Florentine mix to fall through. This was my most successful set! Perhaps my kitchen was mega warm because when smothering the bottom of my Florentines in chocolate, it was just too runny to make any kind of zig zag impression in, and the warm chocolate made the biscuits soft again and yet more fell apart in my hands. Why baking gods, why?!?! I decided the only thing to do was stop handling them more than necessary and put them chocolate side up on a plate and in the fridge. When serving them up the next day, I bought them out 5 minutes before serving and they warmed and softened again nicely, so I have been storing mine in the fridge to keep them whole.
Despite a few structural issues, they tasted absolutely delicious! Really delicate and light, they were sweet but not too saccharine, and the dark chocolate was great for bringing a bitter flavour to counteract the sweetness of the golden syrup and fruit. I will definitely be making these again and fingers crossed I can perfect them in time for Christmas, which is when I believe they are traditionally eaten, and they’d make a great present too – my dad would definitely love these!
I used Mary Berry’s own recipe which I found on the BBC Food website but have written it out below for you too, with some handy hints and tips from my experience thrown in:
* 50g butter
* 50g Demerara sugar
* 50g Golden Syrup
* 50g plain flour
* 25g dried cranberries or glacé cherries if you prefer
* 50g candied peel
* 25g almonds
* 25g walnuts
* 200g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
1) Line 3 baking trays with grease proof paper and preheat your oven to 180C / Gas Mark 4.
2) Finely chop your peel, cranberries and nuts.
3) Place your sugar, butter and golden syrup into a pan and put over a low heat until the butter all melts.
TOP TIP: If you’re using one of those old school tins of Golden Syrup (why oh why do they still make these?! So annoying, but all I could buy in my local Sainsbury’s!) place a spoon in a cup of boiling water for a minute before using it to spoon out the Syrup, as it will run off more easily. (Yes, that is a High School Musical mug).
4) Take the pan off the heat and sieve in the flour and add the nuts and fruit. Stir until it is all incorporated.
5) Split the mix into three in the pan and then divide each third up into six, so you have 6 mixture balls on each baking tray, 18 in total.
TOP TIP: Due to the high sugar content, the Florentine mix will spread whilst cooking so leave lots of room between each ball.
6) Pop the first tray into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until the biscuits look golden brown.
TOP TIP: Mary’s recipe suggests putting all 3 trays in the oven at once. Due to the difficulties I had putting them onto the cooling racks, and the short amount of time it takes for the mix to get too cool to move, I think it’s a good idea to do each tray separately so you only have 6 Florentines to manage at a time.
7) Leave the Florentines to cool for a few moments and then use a thin palette knife to lift them off the baking parchment and onto a cooling rack.
TOP TIP: As I said above, I recommend using a closely knit cooling rack to avoid the Florentines slipping through the rungs and breaking or losing shape.
8) Break half the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and place this over the top of a pan of boiling water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Mary suggests heating the chocolate to 53C but I don’t have a baking temperature so just waited until the chocolate had fully melted and then removed from the heat. Finely chop the rest of the chocolate and add this to the melted chocolate and stir until it cools down (to 26C if you’re measuring) and thickens.
9) Spread a layer of chocolate over the bottom of each Florentine and leave it to set slightly. This is when you should use a fork to make a zig zag pattern in the chocolate, though obviously it wouldn’t work for me! Mary then suggests storing them in an air tight container but if like me your kitchen is hotter than the sun, the fridge is probably the best bet, and then remove then a few minutes before serving to come to room temperature.
You can check out my other posts in the 2014 GBBO Challenge series below: