Last Thursday, I woke up to the sight of surrounding Parisian rooftops covered in snow. I opened my window and realized that if I ran downstairs, right then and there, in my cupcake PJs, I would probably be covered in snowflakes in about 30 seconds. And it hit me: Christmas!
Last year was a snow-less Christmas, and there's honestly nothing better than being able to go Christmas shopping with snow in your hair and stuck to your boots. Plus, snow is the perfect excuse to go all out in the holiday sweets division. It's cold and wet, so hot cocoa, chocolates and cakes are only fitting. I mean, who would want to eat a fruit salad on a cold snowy day? Alright, I'm sure some people like that actually exist, but I don't know many. Or any, actually.
Anyhow, a certain species starts to appear in French pâtisseries around the same time snow starts to fall: the holiday dried fruit and chocolate combo. I'm not talking about truffles or marrons glacés--they would deserve a year's worth of blog posts on their own--but rather the ubiquitous mendiants and florentins. Sure, you can eat them year round, but they have a special Christmas something that everyone appreciates. I'm not one to say no to any kind of chocolate, but I've always been more of a "tout chocolat" kind of girl. Add marzipan or hazelnuts nicely stuffed into the center and I'm just as happy, but dried fruits? Not my thing.
Take one look at a florentin, however, and try to tell me you don't want to eat it--even just a little. Almonds and dried fruit--usually cherries and oranges--are covered in a cream and honey mix, and the bottom is plunged into melted dark chocolate. Convinced?
Florentins are admittedly quite simple to make. All you need is a kitchen thermometer that actually works so that the sugar, honey and cream don't burn when you bring them to a boil--that was not my case. But nothing burned, and my florentins were safe and sound. I also didn't have time to go elsewhere than my local mini grocery store, where no dried cherries or candied orange peels were to be found. Cranberries it was!
They make a great gift, but I'll understand if you keep them to yourself. Just one word of caution, though: make sure your teeth can stand all the delicious stickiness. If it's the case, then you're all set for some truly happy holidays.
2/3 c. sugar (150g)
1/4 c. honey (50g)
2/3 c. + 1/2 TB crème fraiche (160g)
3.5 oz. candied orange peels (100g)
1.8 oz. pine nuts (50g)
3.5 oz. slivered almonds (100g)
5.3 oz (2.3 c.) dark chocolate (150g)
12 round pastry cutters
Preheat oven to 300°F / 150°C.
Dice candied orange peels.
In a large saucepan, pour creme fraiche, honey and sugar and mix. Bring to a boil and cook, approximately 5 minutes, until mixture reaches 244°F / 118°C on a thermometer. Add almonds, pine nuts, and orange peels.
On a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, place the 12 pastry cutters and fill each with a generous amount of the mixture. While baking, it should spread out so don't worry if you don't have perfect circles beforehand.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden but not brown. Remove pastry cutters delicately, and let florentins cool on parchment paper for at least an hour, and up to 3 hours.
In a double boiler, melt dark chocolate. Coat the bottom of each florentin with a brush or by dipping it into the chocolate, and place them in the refrigerator so the chocolate can harden, at least 15 minutes.
Store in an airtight container, separating each layer of florentins with parchment paper or plastic wrap so they don't stick to one another.