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 🙂

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 glacé 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, si°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 180°C / 160°C fan / 350°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 £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)

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Mince Pie Ice Cream

Happy December, everyone – the countdown to Christmas begins! 😀 I can’t believe how fast this year has whizzed by, as it didn’t feel that long ago when I was stuffing myself with mince pies in the name of “research” (you can read my comprehensive review here).

It’s been a crazy year of trying new things and challenging myself, but some things never change… like my love for mince pies 😛 I thought it’d only make sense, since this is originally started as an ice cream blog, to combine two of my favourite treats.

 

Directions

  1. Make the vanilla ice cream base using your preferred recipe – I like this one from bbcgoodfood, although have adjusted for sweetness.
  2. As the custard base is cooling, prepare the mince pie elements.
  3. Take 3 mince pies of your choice (I used Sainsbury’s Deep-Filled ones) and remove the pastry top.
  4. Spoon out the mincemeat filling and mix into the custard base.
  5. Bake the now-empty pastry cases until they are lightly crisp (approx. 5 minutes at fan 180°C). Break them into small pieces.
  6. Churn the ice cream base in your machine, and towards the end (mine takes around 20-25 minutes), sprinkle in the mince pie pastry pieces to add texture to the ice cream. Add as much or as little you like.
  7. Serve with a warm mince pie or on its own – enjoy!

I’m really pleased with how this ice cream turned out. The vanilla ice cream is spiced with the Christmas flavours of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon, and laced with sultanas, currants, candied citrus peel and sweet shortcrust pastry.

 

Thinking of doing some other Christmas ice cream flavours… let me know if you have any ideas! I had these amazing scoops from Gelupo in London – Christmas pudding and salted caramel & gingerbread. Absolutely divine.

White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies

Work has unfortunately been busy and I haven’t had as much motivation to bake as I would’ve liked in this festive season, so this super simple cookie recipe was just what I needed to get back into it! White chocolate and cranberry is a timeless combination that I like all year round, but I’ve never really had a good excuse to bake them until now.

I’ve adapted Nigella’s chocolate chip cookie recipe – it’s my favourite and I think it makes the best big, chewy cookies which are just going crisp on the edges. This recipe also easily adjust for double and half quantities.

Ingredients

Makes 14 large cookies

  • 150 g unsalted butter, softened
  • 90 g soft light brown sugar
  • 90 g white caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 300 g flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200 g white chocolate, chopped
  • 90 g dried cranberries

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C / 150°C fan / 325°F.
  2. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Melt the butter, and cream together with the brown and white sugars.
  4. Add in the vanilla extract and the eggs and mix until the mixture is light and creamy.
  5. Sift in the flour and bicarbonate of soda, and fold the wet and dry ingredients together.
  6. Gently stir through the chocolate chunks and dried cranberries.
  7. It is ideal to chill the cookie dough in the fridge for at least an hour before baking, but if you’re short of time, it should be fine to use the dough straightaway.
  8. Using an ice-cream scoop or two tablespoons, scoop the cookie dough into ping-pong sized balls and drop them on the baking sheet. Keep them at least 8 cm apart, as these will grow when baked in the oven.
  9. Bake for 15-17 minutes until the edges are golden. The centres will still be soft but will firm up when cooled. Leave to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet.
  10. Enjoy!

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The Best Mince Pies to Try This Christmas

I love this time of the year in the build up to the holiday season. Even though the days are getting shorter, darker and colder, nothing warms me up more than seeing the sparkly lights and festive decorations, and enjoying a hot beverage. Winter is also a great reason to eat more – it’s cold and we’ve got huge coats on anyway..

I’m loving making slow-cooked chillies, beef stews and delicious ragus, but more importantly – the Christmas season has heralded the return of my favourite festive sweet, the mince pie! If it wasn’t obvious from the title of this post, I’ve been on the hunt for the best mince pies that London has to offer. But first, what exactly is a mince pie? It’s basically a fit-in-your-palm-sized buttery shortcrust pastry filled with mincemeat – a fruity, boozy, spiced mix of vine fruits and citrus peel (with no actual meat!).

I’ve sampled a range of mince pies from the supermarkets and high street cafes but will be updating this list as we get closer to Christmas – do let me know if there are any you think I’ve missed out and need to try!

1. Heston from Waitrose Spiced Shortcrust Mince Pies with a Lemon Twist (£3.00 / 4 pies) – 9/10

This was probably the most unique mince pie that I tried, though I suppose it’s more of a tart than an actual pie! Waitrose also has a chocolate & ginger version which also looks really good (see below). I loved the crumble topping and the zesty lemon curd, which complemented the sweet mincemeat. The spiced pastry also tasted delicious. The only downside is that I wished there was more of the filling to balance against the pastry!

2. Sainsbury’s Deep Filled Mince Pies (£1.10 / 6 pies) – 7/10

Sainsbury’s is my go-to supermarket so I had to try out their classic mince pies and I was pleasantly satisfied. The pies are packed full of sultanas, raisins and currants and some orange peel. I didn’t find the filling to be overly sweet and was actually slightly tart. Overall, a good solid choice of mince pie and great value for money.

3. Marks & Spencer’s The Collection Mince Pies (£2.50 / 6 pies) – 8/10

These mince pies are beautifully decorated with a snowflake and star design. The mincemeat filling makes M&S’s version so good – it’s bursting with vine fruits, cherries and clementine, with a full brandy flavour and citrus notes. The citrus means that the filling doesn’t end up too sickly sweet. The pastry is also decent – very buttery, but I found it got a bit sticky in my mouth – not an issue when washed down with some milk though!

4. Iceland Luxury Mince Pies (£1.89 / 6 pies) – 8/10

This was voted as the nation’s favourite mince pie last year, so I had high hopes! The pastry on these mince pies were lovely – really buttery and almost crisp when warmed in the oven. Also has a delicious gooey filling with juicy fruits. Unexpected place to find such a tasty mince pie!

5. Starbucks Mince Pie (£1.69 / ea) – 6/10

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This was a pretty hefty mince pie (both in price, as compared to the options above, and also in size). The mince pie is very deep and was generous with the sultanas, currants and raisins. I found the filling too sweet though and with the heavy dusting of icing sugar, it was a bit too much on the whole. The pastry was also very crumbly. This probably wouldn’t be my first choice of a baked good in Starbucks but it’s still pretty tasty enjoyed with one of their Christmas coffees.

6. Konditor & Cook Mince Pie (£1.60 / ea) – 7.5/10

I love the cakes at K&C, so I had to give their famous mince pies a try too! These were smaller than I expected and I polished it off in a few bites! Their mince pies have a lovely handcrafted look and are tantalisingly golden brown. The filling is plump with raisins / sultanas but there isn’t a lot of it! All in all, a delicious mince pie with buttery pastry (yet not being too dry), but the price means that it’s more of a treat / good for a gift – K&C sell it in gift boxes of 6 for £10.

7. Waitrose’s All Butter Chocolate and Ginger Mince Pies (£2.00 / 4 pies) – 8/10

img_9532I’ve never tried a chocolate mince pie before and what a delicious revelation! When warmed in the oven, the crisp pastry and the soft filling have a gooey brownie-like texture, which is divine. The filling is laced with orange oil and ginger, giving the pie a lovely spicy and warming flavour. On the whole, the mince pie isn’t too sweet and the chocolate, orange and ginger flavours pair together really nicely. If you’re looking for a twist on the traditional mince pie, this one is highly recommended!

Hope you all have a lovely Christmas / holiday season, filled with lots of delicious food (already excited for all the Christmas cakes) & wishing everyone the best for 2018! 🙂

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