I’m currently enjoying a week of unemployment as I take a break between leaving work and starting my course. In between running around on minor errands that have suddenly grown in importance now I know I only have a week to do them – must return library books! and go to the post office! and get my hair cut! – I’m occupying myself in the obvious way, that is, cooking elaborate meals and snacks.
I also have a deep-seated fear of waste which means that any extended period away from home is preceded by a desperate attempt to use everything in the fridge. Even though Tom will still be here, and presumably eating, I don’t really trust him not to recklessly forget to use up that half-empty tub of cream cheese and, god forbid, throw it away. I’m going to have to try not to think about it.
I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for a while because there’s something about florentines; they just seem so elegant for a biscuit, and you don’t come across one often so they have an elusive, special occasion quality. When I realised I could also neatly use up the two egg whites left over from macaroon making, it was a sure thing. These aren’t actually a traditional florentine, which usually includes nuts and dried fruit, but a very simple, crisp biscuit showcasing the dainty flavour of the almonds. You can also brush one side with chocolate, which is good too. I like the idea of using them as a sort of ice-cream wafer, but so far haven’t got beyond eating them with an afternoon cup of coffee in my new charity shop teacups.
Almond and orange florentines Makes 16-20
vegetable oil for brushing
2 free-range egg whites (about 60g)
100g icing sugar
260g flaked almonds
grated zest of 1 orange
Preheat the oven to 150c. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and brush with vegetable oil. I bought a silicone baking sheet after Christmas and I can’t recommend it highly enough – no need for oil, and there’s never any stickage. You cut it to fit your trays, and afterwards you wash it and it’s ready to go again. Anyway, I used this for two of my trays but had to use the greaseproof paper on the final tray, and I did find myself peeling tiny bits of paper off those. So I guess I’d say be quite generous with the oil.
Have a bowl of cold water and a fork at hand. Put the egg whites in a large bowl. Sift over the icing sugar and add the flaked almonds and orange zest. Mix gently together. Now, dip your hand in the water and pick up small handfuls of the mix, making little mounds on the baking tray. Dip the fork in the water and flatten each mound into a thin biscuit – they should be about 8cm in diameter but you don’t want too many gaps between the almond flakes. Continue until all the mixture has been used up.
Place the baking tray/s in the oven and bake until the florentines are golden. The recipe says 12 minutes, but mine took closer to 20.
Allow to cool in the trays and then remove and store in an airtight container – be careful, as they’re liable to break. They should keep for 4-5 days.
From Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s ‘Ottolenghi’.