Monday, September 6, 2010

Biscuits for the Medici

On a windy Sunday recently I turned my hand to some Florentine biscuits, part of a life long search for biscuits which maintain the interest of both children and adults.

I remember these biscuits being rather popular in the 1970's and feeling quite grown up when I ate them as a child.

I adapted a Karen Martini recipe for these, and had to road test some of the ingredients on my daughter.  She didn't like the glace ginger so I took it out. 

A tip - this is sticky and messy to make, so much so that it is almost impossible to form a biscuit to put on the baking tin by hand.  I scooped spoonfuls into 10 cm metal rings, pressed down and then lifted the ring off.


395 ml condensed milk
250 g cornflakes
150 g unsalted peanuts coarsely chopped
100g dried cranberries coarsely chopped 
100g dried apricots coarsely chopped
finely grated zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
250 g melted dark chocolate (I used milk to satisfy small children)


Preheat oven to 180 degrees.  Line two or three baking trays with baking paper.
Combine all ingredients save the chocolate in a large bowl and mix well.
Press 1 to 2 tablespoons of mixture into 10 cm scone or biscuit cutters and place onto trays. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden and cooked.  Remove and when a bit cooler, cool on wire racks.
Spread melted chocolate on the flat back of each biscuit.  Leave to set.
They keep for about 7 days in an airtight container. 

So why Florentine biscuits?  Some say the biscuits are actually Austrian in origin. Another story has it that a master confectioner created them at Versailles, in the kitchens of King Louis XIV of France, in honour of the Medicis of Florence when they visited.   Those who are up on their Medici history will recall that Catherine de Medici married Henry, Duke d'Orleans who later became Henry II in 1547.  Louis XIV reigned between 1654 and 1715.  By this stage the Medici family had waned in power and I think they were quite unlikely to have been visiting Versailles.  

In any event, can you imagine that a little cornflakey biscuit would have impressed or delighted the likes of these people?  Somehow I just can't see it.   

Lorenzo de Medici (1449-1492) by Bronzino

Giovanni (Lorenzo's son, later Pope Leo V) by Bronzino

Guilio (later Pope Clement VII)

One thing my European History studies taught me is that you do not mess with the Medici.  They would probably see conspiracies galore in such a frivolous biscuit  


Mise said...

What an amusing juxtaposition of themes! Florentines are probably my Favourite Biscuit in the Whole World and I will work hard on my scowl lest this should make me appear frivolous. By the way, does the Marks and Spencer empire extend to Melbourne? They make great florentines. Probably not as good as yours, but magnificent for a packet.

brismod said...

I'm sure Giovanni would have been tempted by your cornflakey biscuit with milk chocolate. They look delicious.

Ann said...

Delicious. And you're right they don't quite fit with the ruthless Medici reputation.

I will try them, although I can see an 'urgh' coming from the two year old until he flips them over and finds "chocud". A x

Monika said...

They look delicious, maybe I should try them with my kids. They love all kinds of sweets expect the ones that I make... My son is just cruelly honest nowadays, so I received some criticism about my pear cake this weekend :-(

Amanda (Small Acorns) said...

Like Mise, I think Florentines are the most delicious treat, not that I've ever been brave enough to try and make them myself. And aren't I the luckiest giveaway winner! Rest assured that I shall treasure my iPhone cover Jane and I shall definitely have the best dressed phone in Wellington! Thank you so much. You did indeed make my day. xxx

Kellie Collis said...

Now those biscuits look good!! Kellie x

jules @ The Diversion Project said...

i love florentines, and yours look delish! you certainly made better use out of your sunday than i did.

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Florentines are my husband's most favourite thing (to eat, anyway !!) As Mise says, Marks and Spencers version are absolutely delicious but, it is a confection that is mostly eaten at Christmas here in the UK. I don't know why but that's how it is.....if it was up to me, we'd eat them all year round.
Lots of Brownie points to you Jane for making some yourself. I bet that they are delicious. XXXX

Vintage Home said...

...whatever!...they look wonderful should get all the credit!

Jeanne Henriques said...

I love your Medici post Jane..this recipe looks yummy!
You have combined my favourite ingredients, dried cranberries and apricots...the lemon zest, cinnamon and nutmeg are a nice touch but the chocolate has to be the most intriguing part of the recipe..

Have to say I am impressed with your food photography. Not an easy thing to do and yours looks so profssional!

Best Wishes xx

Jeanne :)

Julie@beingRUBY said...

ahh Clever Jane!!
Love the Medici images..they all look so serious.. give them a biscuit.. that'll cheer them up!! xxx Julie

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