Carré Florentin (from Patisserie, Felder 2011)
I am easily distracted by bright, colourful and shiny things. So when I walked into London’s grand old bookstore Foyles, I was drawn in by the glossy hot pink tractor beam of Patisserie by Christophe Felder. But I was totally hooked by the 3,200 step-by-step pictures (perfect for a dunce like me) over 800 pages of French patisserie recipes, covering the iconic, infamous and lesser-known of creams, pastries, cakes, brioches, macaroons, mignardises… and there is simply nothing you can do with chocolate that Felder doesn’t. I’ll leave that to your imagination.
So now, for my first trick: carré florentin. I know my readers well enough to know you have a naughty streak for sweet things. These sophisticated little squares are the perfect combination of a peanut brittle snap and a chewy fruity cookie, delicately topped with dark chocolate. Unfeasibly tasty, and classy enough to serve to the Queen, should she ever pop round for a cuppa and a bite of something sweet (careful of your dentures ma’am). But be forewarned, they are neither the easiest nor the least time-consuming of sweet treat to make.
First I had to make Oranges et Citrons Confits (candied orange and lemon peels), just to constitute the minor fruit element of the florentines. Boiling and draining and boiling and draining and boi… ad infin-boring-itum. Chilling. Drying. Then coating the two peels in two different sugar mixtures. All that just to prepare two of the eleven ingredients for the florentines.
But these are the complaints of a lazy baker. I would probably never have considered trying these before because they seem so complex, but the step-by-step pics made it look easy, and I can tell you I don’t think I have baked any biscuit or conjured any cookie that has been more worth my time and effort. They made me not only appear, but feel, like a pro. I am primed for entry into The Great British Bake Off!
First for the Oranges et Citrons Confits:
2.5 oranges / 2.5 lemons / 150g + 125g caster sugar / 250ml + 250ml cold water / 1/2 tbsp + 1/2 tbsp clear honey / 50g + 50g granulated sugar / 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon / 1/2 tsp ground coriander / 1/2 tbsp vanilla sugar or splash of vanilla extract / 2 canning jars
Do this (that’s right ALL of this, just to make the fruit for the floretines!)
boil saucepan water / peel oranges in strips with pith + sliver of flesh / cut to 6mm wide strips / boil for 1 min / drain / boil new water / repeat boiling & draining x 2 / boil 250ml water + 150g caster sugar in pan, stirring to dissolve / add orange peel & boil 2 mins / stir in 1/2 tbsp honey (pic 1) / empty into jar & cool before sealing & storing in fridge
boil saucepan water / peel lemons in strips with pith + sliver of flesh / cut to 6mm wide strips / boil for 1 min / drain / boil new water / repeat boiling & draining x 3 / boil 250ml water + 125g caster sugar in pan, stirring to dissolve / add lemon peel & boil 2 mins / stir in 1/2 tbsp honey / empty into jar & cool before sealing & storing in fridge (pic 2)
once chilled, drain & dry on wire rack / 1 bowl = 50g granulated sugar + ground cinnamon + orange peel / toss to coat & remove / 1 bowl = 50g granulated sugar + ground coriander + vanilla sugar or extract + lemon peel / toss to coat & remove
At last, for the Carré Florentin:
60g clear honey / 60g butter / 60g caster sugar / grated zest 1/2 orange + 1/2 lemon / 60g flaked almonds / 20g orange confit / 20g lemon confit / 40g salted peanuts / 100g dark 60-70% chocolate / pinch fleur de sel otherwise kosher or table salt
oven 160C / line baking sheet with parchment paper / dice confits / pan medium heat add honey + butter + sugar + zest / stir until sugar dissolved / boil / moment it boils remove from heat / stir in almonds + confits + peanuts with wooden spoon / spread thinly on lined baking sheet / shape & even with palette knife (pic 3) / oven 15 mins / sprinkle over fleur de sel or salt / slide paper onto chopping board & let cool for a short while until cuttable but not so brittle it breaks into shards / cut into squares / cool completely
pyrex bowl over high heat boiling pan of water (bowl not touching water) / add broken chocolate / stir until melted / low heat for a minute / medium heat for 2-3 mins / coat wooden spoon with chocolate & drizzle over squares / leave to set