Vegan Sour Cherry and Pecan Florentines
These Vegan Sour Cherry and Pecan Florentines are great with a hot cup of tea or coffee. They also make fantastic gifts! Get the recipe below.
How to bake the perfect florentine
When the second episode of the Great British Bake Off (Series 11) aired I knew that the challenge I wanted to replicate was the florentine challenge. I’ve eaten my fare share of florentines over the years but had never made one from scratch (and definitely not vegan florentines!)
As I started researching them I discovered that there were two schools of thought: (1) florentines should be tooth-breaking crisp; and (2) florentines should be chewy. Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith fall in the first camp and judged the contestants harshly if they didn’t achieve the perfect “snap”. But when I thought back to all of the florentines I’d eaten over the years I also remembered how many times I thought I’d shattered a tooth…is that really what you want in a biscuit?!
I decided I fell somewhere in the middle of both camps. It needed to be thin and crisp (particularly around the edges) but not so solid that I would need a trip to the dentist and I’m pleased to save I’ve achieved just that with the recipe you’ll find below.
What is a florentine biscuit?
If you’re not familiary with this particular confection, then I’m here to explain! A florentine is a type of thin biscuit made with chopped nuts, dried or candied fruit that has been bound together with a caramel made from sugar and butter. They are often either dipped or coated with chocolate underneith.
Purists will say that they should always be made with flaked almonds and that they should never include flour or eggs. But a purist I am not. In my experiments a little bit of flour helped combine everything together and I am all for recipes that work rather than ones that are traditional. Of course as these are vegan florentines I swapped the butter for a non-dairy butter and ignored the suggestion of adding eggs completely.
Why are they notoriously difficult to make?
A good florentine should be like a piece of caramel lace adorned with nuts and fruit. Creating something so delicate that holds together perfectly is a real challenge. With most sugar work you are working on the hob with a sugar thermometer but with florentines you have to hope that it reaches the required temperature so that it sets firm once cooled. But equally you don’t want to leave it in the oven too long and find that your florentines have burnt!
There’s a lot of conflicting advice about how to prevent or encourage your florentines spreading out nice and thin. One suggestion is to simply spoon a mound of the mixture on to your baking sheet and to let them spread out naturally. I found this method created a biscuit that was a little too thick for my liking. Instead, I prefer to try and flatten out the mix as best as possible, though being sure not to leave any gaps. The mix will spread a little but rather than creating a big puddle of caramel it will just create the lace effect whilst still keeping everything bound.
Last but not least, decorating florentines can be messy if you go down the traditional route. But, rather than dipping the biscuits in chocolate and turning myself and my kitchen into a sticky chocolatey mess I prefer to spoon a little chocolate on the underside and then to spread it with a spatula. It’s much less messy and you can control the amount of chocolate on your biscuit much easier.
How do you make florentines vegan?
Traditional florentines are made with butter and honey. I’ve swapped these out for a non-dairy butter and maple syrup. Florentines are also often decorated by being dipped in dark chocolate and then using milk chocolate or white chocolate to create a feathered effect. You could achieve this by using a white icing instead but I decided to keep things simple and just dust mine with a gold lustre dust instead.
Vegan Sour Cherry and Pecan Florentines
- Pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
- Line two large baking sheets with grease proof paper and place to one side.
- Add the non-dairy butter, sugar and maple syrup to a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved into the melted butter.
- In the meantime, roughly chop the dried cherries and pecans and add them to a mixing bowl.
- Add the flour and salt to the mixing bowl and toss the cherries and nuts in the flour ensuring they are all well coated.
- Pour the melted butter and sugar over the cherries and nuts and stir to combine.
- Dollop 6 tablespoons of the mix onto each baking sheet, making sure they are well spaced to account for any spreading.
- flatten gently (but making sure you don't leave gaps between the cherries and nuts.)
- Place the baking trays into the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes until the caramel is bubbling and golden brown.
- Leave the florentines to cool completely on the trays.
- Once cool, melt the chocolate using your preferred method (over a bowl of hot water or a microwave is fine!)
- Once the chocolate is melted, carefully pick up a florentine and turn it over so the flat side is facing up.
- Spoon 1 - 2 teaspoons of the melted chocolate on to the centre of the flat side of the florentine and spread carefully with a spatula. Repeat until the bottoms of all 12 florentines have been coated.
- Decoarate as you wish.
StorageOnce baked you can enjoy florentines immediately. Any leftovers will keep well in an airtight container for up to a month. Because of the long shelf life, florentines make fantastic gifts! Why not add to your Christmas hamper?
Substitute the fruit
You can swap the sour cherries for any dried fruits that take your fancy such as:
- Golden raisins
Avoid fresh fruits as these will generate moisture when they cook.
Substitute the nuts
Slivered almonds are the most traditional nut but why not try one of these substitutions: