Christmas Florentine Biscuits

At last!! I may have just found my favourite Christmas cookie recipe. It’s buttery, spiced with cinnamon, topped with a nutty caramel and dipped in dark chocolate – you really can’t go wrong πŸ™‚

This recipe is an adaptation of the traditional Florentine biscuit (originating from Italy, although some dispute this…) but combines nuts (hazelnuts or almonds), candied fruit, honey and chocolate. Adding a sweet biscuit layer gives the cookie a bit more substance and bite. Since it has two components, it was a bit more fiddly to make, but was definitely a fun project on a Friday night!

Ingredients (makes 18)

For the biscuit layer

  • 115 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 55 g golden caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150 g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

For the Florentine topping

  • 33 g unsalted butter
  • 33 g light brown sugar
  • 33 g maple syrup
  • 33 g plain flour
  • 50 g dried cranberries (or glacΓ© cherries, if you prefer)
  • 50 g flaked almonds
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100 g dark chocolate

Directions

  1. Make the biscuit dough. Start by creaming together the butter, sugar and vanilla with an electric whisk.
  2. Sift in the flour and cinnamon, then fold together.
  3. Use your hands or a spatula to form the dough into a sphere, wrap in cling film then chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
  4. Make the Florentine topping. Melt the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup in a saucepan over low heat. Take off the heat, siΒ°ft in the flour and add the almonds, cranberries and a pinch of salt. Gently fold through.
  5. Leave the Florentine mixture to cool.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180Β°C / 160Β°C fan / 350Β°F.
  7. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Take the biscuit dough out from the fridge and, on a lightly floured surface, roll to the thickness of a Β£1 coin.
  9. Use a cookie cutter/mug/glass (approx. 6 cm in diameter) to cut out the biscuits and place onto a baking sheet.
  10. Combine any scraps and roll out again, cutting out more biscuits until the dough is used up.
  11. Evenly spread about 2 tsp of Florentine topping onto each biscuit.
  12. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the biscuits are golden. Leave to cool for at least 15 mins.
  13. Melt the dark chocolate – either on a saucepan of boiling water or in the microwave.
  14. Decorate the biscuits as you wish with the chocolate. I did a generous chocolate drizzle for half of the batch, and dipped the other half in the remaining chocolate.
  15. Let the chocolate set in the fridge.
  16. Enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from bbcgoodfood.com)

Fotor_15443181131888.jpg

Chai & Speculoos Ice Cream

Following the success of my tea & biscuits ice cream, I decided to continue the theme with a different tea and to pair it with another type of biscuit. I have a feeling that I’ll be trying a few more variations, so do let me know your favourite tea and biscuit combination in the comments below!

English breakfast is usually my go-to tea, but if I’m feeling something with more flavour and warmth, I really like masala chai. Whether it’s brewed in hot water with a splash of milk, or made into a chai latte, I love how the blend of spices (cinnamon, cloves, anise, cardomom, ginger) lift a simple black tea.

The house chai at Dishoom (various branches in London) is one of my favourites since it has the perfect balance of sweet and spicy – and you get unlimited refills! At home, I like Tea India‘s chai – you can smell the amazing spices the minute you open the box, and each teabag is packed with plenty of flavour.

IMG_8518 (2)

I wanted to find a biscuit that could match the strong flavours of the chai and was torn between gingersnaps and speculoos. I think either of those biscuits would’ve paired well, but I decided on speculoos in the end as I wanted a more cinnamon-flavoured ice cream.

Speculoos is traditionally a Christmas cookie that originates from the Netherlands and Belgium. It’s laced with similar spices to chai – cinnamon, cloves, ginger and cardamom – but also pepper and nutmeg. I used Lotus’s Biscoff biscuits for my recipe, but I’m definitely planning to make some of these biscuits from scratch at some point!

Like my milk tea ice cream, I steeped 5 tea bags’ worth of chai in the milk and cream mixture before making the custard. I also added a few extra pinches of cinnamon, ground ginger and nutmeg. My kitchen was filled with the aroma of all the spices and it started to remind me of Christmas πŸ™‚

IMG_8519 (2)

This ice cream also turned out wonderfully, with the speculoos complementing the creamy chai ice cream perfectly. I’m starting to think you can’t go wrong with this tea and biscuits combination! I’m thinking of doing an earl grey ice cream next…!

Tea & Biscuits Ice Cream

Tea is basically the lifeblood of the British people and since moving to the UK in 2012, I’ve adopted this national beverage as part of my regular diet as well. There’s something so comforting about a big mug of English breakfast tea, especially during the cold winter months (and the cold summer days in London, recently!). Yorkshire Tea is my personal favourite, and I enjoy my tea with a splash of milk and no sugar.

That being said, I’ve loved milk tea long before coming to England – in Hong Kong, milk tea is also a staple in cha chaan tengs (a typical fast food restaurant that serves a fusion of Chinese/Western cuisine – I’m getting nostalgic just thinking about them). Hong Kong-style milk tea is has a distinctively smooth and deep tea flavour and it’s so delicious whether served hot or over ice. It’s made using black tea, evaporated milk and sugar, but what makes the tea so incredibly smooth is that the tea leaves are strained using a sack-cloth back (kind of like a silk stocking, which is why it’s sometimes called ‘pantyhose’ tea!).

This ice cream recipe celebrates both versions of the humble milk tea, and I hope I’ve done it justice!

IMG_8135

Inspiration

Via Tokyo (Shop 1A-1B, G/F, Leishun Court, 106-126 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay)

Via Tokyo is one of Hong Kong’s most popular dessert cafes, serving a range of Japanese desserts and in particular, the most indulgent soft serves. Their classic flavours include Matcha (this in itself is worth a separate post), Hokkaido milk and Hojicha, but for awhile they had an amazing Royal Milk Tea flavour, which inspired me to create this recipe!

IMG_2672 (2)

Creation

To take my milk tea flavoured ice cream to the next level, I decided to add some texture by crumbling one of my favourite biscuits into the mix – chocolate digestives! Not proud to admit that I devoured many packs of these biccies whilst at university (seriously, the chocolate caramel version is crack to me).

I used my usual custard base, but steeped several tea bags’ worth of Yorkshire Tea in the milk & cream mixture for an hour before adding the egg yolks and remaining sugar. To achieve the silky smooth texture, I passed the ice cream mix through a sieve a couple of times before churning it in the machine.

IMG_8124 (2)

I’m so happy with how this ice cream turned out in the end – there’s a lovely tea flavour, it’s not too sweet and the bits of chocolate biscuit make this dessert so addictive!

Let me know what your favourite tea and biscuit combination is in the comments below – unless you’re more of a coffee person… πŸ˜› Thanks for making it all the way down this fairly long post – hope you liked it!

IMG_8204