Thursday, 15 December 2011


I love the Christmas season in the UK.  It is the most celebrated festival here where the preparations start as early as October. Everything around is in the X’mas spirit now and there is lot of things going on at Richu’s school too. There was a Xmas party this week and I baked loads of cupcakes as part of my contribution. Rishan is also quite excited about all the Christmassy things happening at school and neighbourhood. His teacher also mentioned that he wrote a lovely letter to Santa which I reckon I heard her right, as he just started reading few words apart from the alphabets.

 Here, Xmas is celebrated with lot of hype with all shops and malls putting up their Xmas decorations, Xmas trees and selling Xmas goodies and gifts as early as October. Shops are loaded with Xmas goodies and stuffs and it will bring you in Xmas mood and spirit from then on. Even though it’s quite serene on Xmas day, until then all malls are jam packed and chaotic with people shopping in frenzy as if there is no day tomorrow.

Not to forget, there is this so called ‘Boxing Day’, that falls on 26th December, which is a bank holiday here in the UK. Basically, it is a national holiday and that is the time when shops have massive sale with dramatic reduction in their prices.  Many shops open as early as 5 am, and can you believe people queuing outside the shops as early as 4 am?!!It is a bit strange, but true. I am thinking of going quite early this year amnd that is if my better half wakes up. He hates being in that shoulder to shoulder crowd and mostly prefer not to shop on that day. And by the time we go, all the good ones would have taken way to someone’s bag.

Here is a real good cookie that best suits the celebratory mood and a great gift to offer your friends and relatives - Florentines. You may serve them as dessert or a cuppa tea.  I am kind of creamy, luscious dessert loving person rather than a dessert with crunch. I would prefer a tiramisu to an apple crumble, if you know what I mean. It was one of my dearest friends Dhanya Lakshmanan who seduced me into making these which otherwise I wouldn’t have really tried. I reckon I should be a pound heavier than I was a week ago! I had almost all of it. It was quite good, I should say.

Florentines are a festive treat that uses all the luxurious fruits and nuts to suit any festive occasion. These are jewelled with glace cherries, raisins, flaked almonds, and mixed seeds and a breeze to make. You can use whatever you have in hand, like just nuts of any kind, dried cranberries, apricots, figs, crystallised ginger, candied peels, seeds so on. Options are endless. Florentines are gorgeous to look at and a pleasure to bite into. It can be chewy or crunchy depending on the time you cook. You may undercook and get it chewy or cook it a bit further to get it crunchy. I like it slightly crunchy so cooked it for about 12 minutes at 170 degrees Celcius. Make sure you don’t cook it for too long as it may burn and taste bitter.

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Recipe: Florentines
Adapted from The Italian Cook book

Makes about 30 cookies
Preparation time:20 minutes
Baking time:20 minutes

  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 75g/ 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cream
  • 100g/ 1 cup flaked almonds
  • 25g/2 tbsp sunflower seeds or any seeds of choice
  • 25g/2 tbsp raisins
  • 100g/ ½ cup glace cherries
  • 175g good quality dark chocolate

1.Preheat the oven to 170C.

2. Heat the butter, sugar and flour in a pan over a medium heat, stirring continuously, until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.

3. Gradually add in the cream, stirring continuously until well combined. Don’t let the cream boil. Turn the heat off.

4. Throw in the almonds slivers, seeds, raisins, cherries and mix well until combined.

5. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and place a dessertspoon of the florentine mixture onto it. Allow plenty of space for the cookie to spread while cooking so that they don't merge together when heated.

6. Transfer the florentines to the oven and bake for 8-13 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. The cookies will be really soft at this stage and will harden in a matter of 3-5 minutes, so don’t worry about it not being hard when they are just out of the oven. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on the tray, then transfer the florentines to a cooling rack.

Note: The Florentines won’t have perfect round shape when they come out of oven. But if u want them to be perfect rounds, place a cookie cutter or any transparent glass around florentines and slowly tap the uneven edges or all around to make a neat circle. You can avoid this step as it doesn’t alter the taste, just the shape. If you are doing this, you should do as soon as it comes out of oven as it starts setting in a minute’s time and once it sets, it will start cracking.

7. To melt chocolate, bring  water to a simmer in a pan. Place a heatproof bowl over the water (do not allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the chocolate pieces and stir until smooth and melted.

8. Turn the florentines so that the flat base is facing upwards. Spread the melted chocolate over the florentine bases and set aside. Use a fork to make wavy lines across the chocolate and leave aside to cool completely.

Instead of spreading the chocolate and setting, you can also dunk the cookies halfway through in a bowl of melted chocolate and leave to set. You can use milk, white or dark chocolate for this.

I am sending couple of pictures of this post to a photography contest held at Beloved Star. Please check her beautiful blog out there.

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