Sometimes things don’t quite go to plan.
I had this idea in my head that I couldn’t let go. A florentine, but not exactly. Something gluten-free and nutty, something biscuit-sized and circular, something delicate held together with a caramel cage and strands of chocolate.
That was the idea in my head. Of course, in execution it was maybe a little more Pro Hart than Raymond Blanc.
What happened? Well, I’ve never made caramel before. Several recipes advise that you make it, then put it into cold water to stop it from cooking. I dutifully followed instructions, waiting for it to turn the requisite dark gold colour and plunged the base of the saucepan into cold water. And then promptly panicked when the caramel started to set and I hadn’t even gotten around to drizzling it over the nuts.
(Will I spoil the story if I tell you you can actually re-liquify caramel by heating it? – naturally, something I found out the hard way.)
After the panic had cleared, my beautiful Londontine dream lay in golden puddles rather than wispy cobwebs. The whisk was firmly stuck to the bottom of the saucepan with caramel and a distinct air of permanence. Shards of caramel pointed threateningly towards the ceiling. I had sugar strands on my face.
My inner perfectionist could have cried. But I had this wonderful, valuable conversation with my bestie this weekend, where she reminded me that it doesn’t do to take everything so seriously all the time. ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff, Kahmen,’ she said, and she’s right. I cook because I love to create, and share, and it fills me with a sense of joy and fulfilment and happiness. And sometimes recipes don’t quite do what you want them to. But that’s perfectly ok; in fact, sometimes it takes you somewhere just as good anyway.
With that in mind, the not-quite-Florentines are going to work with me tomorrow, and I’ll stand by them in their misshapen glory and all. What a beautiful London weekend it’s been!
Not quite florentines
500g mixed nuts, lightly roasted
25g dried cranberries (optional)
6 tbsp water
100g dark chocolate
Line a large area with baking paper.
Arrange the nuts and fruit in circles – use a glass to get a good shape. Make sure they’re only in one layer, otherwise they won’t take the caramel and they’ll fall when you lift it.
To make the caramel: place the sugar and water in a saucepan with a light-coloured heavy base. Swirl a few times to roughly combine. Place over a high heat until the edges start to bubble. It’s very important that you don’t touch the sugar or water with your hands at all, because it’s extremely hot.
Swirl the pan a few times to make sure the sugar melts properly and take care that it doesn’t burn. When it begins to colour, slow the heat down until it’s a dark amber, then remove from heat.
Dip the base of the pan briefly into cold water, then remove. If this cools the caramel too much and it becomes hard, just return to heat until it liquifies again.
Working quickly, use a whisk to drizzle strands of caramel over the nut rounds. Make sure you connect each nut in the round, otherwise it’ll fall apart when you lift it.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over boiling water and drizzle over the rounds. Allow to cool and set, then carefully lift from the paper with a knife.