Florentine biscuits with homemade dark chocolate
Is it just me or do all those food blogs out there give you the impression that every new recipe works out well and the resulting food tastes great, looks great and is easy to photograph straightaway? Well, as you possibly may have guessed already, it's quite the opposite. Well, in my own case, at least ;)
Each time I have to look at an extra unsightly chunk of formerly tasty ingredients again, I force myself to think positive and to not become too frustrated: Practice makes perfect. You always learn from making mistakes. Now I know how it does NOT work. At least the taste is ...uhm ... well, let's just say it could be worse. I think. And although I am usually pretty good in sugarcoating things (literally!), I am not satisfied until I've found out what went wrong and why. Well, I guess that's the scientist in me.
Anyway. You may now ask yourself for whatever reason I write about failed recipes in the introduction to very simple florentine biscuits. You have three guesses... To my defense I have to explain that one of my New Year's resolutions is about buying as few manufactured and processed food products as possible. Therefore, instead of using couverture chocolate for these scrumptious florentine biscuits, I decided to make the dark chocolate myself.
Chocolate in general is rather simple: You just need three ingredients to make one of the most famous and most beloved sweets on earth: cocoa butter, cocoa powder and, unless you like terribly bitter stuff, sweetener like agave syrup. By just melting and stirring the ingredients together you usually end up with chocolate that looks usually rather ugly despite its pretty good taste. A grey layer typically spreads on its surface and in the worst case scenario, cocoa butter and cocoa powder separate completely. This or at least something similar happened to me today. I guess that is what you get for doing it first and thinking it over later ;)
Well, after some research (better late than never ;) ), I found the explanation on this very nice blog: Tempering is the magic word or rather the magic technique. To ensure your homemade chocolate will be smooth and shiny instead of grey and grainy, it must be stirred gently at a specific set of temperatures. Luckily, if you fail you can just melt the ugly chunk of chocolate and start all over again. After several attempts, it worked out very well for me. Just look at the beautiful results on the pictures :) You live and learn.
Plus, I am very eager to find out more about the sweet chemistry of chocolate making as it is a great opportunity to experience the fascinating chemistry of ordinary things! Now, guess what my next article of the "Sweet & Science" section of my blog will be about? Correct! Chocolaaaate!
Prep time: 30-40 minutes
Baking time: 10 minutes
Cooling time: 10 minutes
Ingredients for about 30 pieces
100 g flaked almonds
50 g sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar
60 g cream
35 g butter
One pinch of salt
100 g cocoa butter
50 g unsweetened cocoa powder
5 tbsp agave syrup
Pulp of one vanilla bean
Kitchen thermometer for tempering the molten chocolate, which is very important.
Two saucepans and a small metal bowl which will serve as water baths.
Nice to have: silicon molds for little chocolate bars. You can also use other silicon molds instead, e.g. the ones that you use for muffins.
For the almond bars, preheat fan oven to 180 °C. In a small saucepan, heat up cream, sugar, honey, salt and butter and simmer over medium heat for five minutes while stirring occasionally. Add flaked almonds and simmer for another 3-4 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread almond mixture evenly. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let honeyed almonds cool for a couple of minutes on a cut-resistant working surface. Cut into small rectangles, using a long and sharp knife. Make the chocolate while letting the almond bars cool down completely.
First of all, let me give you some important facts about making chocolate.
Chocolate and cocoa butter are usually melted in a small saucepan or metal bowl over a warm water bath. But be careful with this setup! One water drop that splashes into your melted chocolate will cause the whole batch to become hard and grainy, so don’t stir too vigorously.
To ensure your self-made chocolate will be smooth and shiny instead of grey and grainy, it must be stirred gently at a specific set of temperatures. This process is called tempering. Again, make sure that you use a perfectly dry kitchen thermometer as water can ruin everything. Although this sounds a little bit complicated, it is really easy and absolutely worth it. Just try to stick to the recipe ;)
Okay now, let's start with making chocolate! In a small metal bowl, melt the cocoa butter over a water bath which has a constant temperature of no more than 55 °C. Stir occasionally. Scrape the vanilla bean and add the seeds to the molten cocoa butter. Add the cocoa powder as well as the agave syrup by the tablespoonful and stir until smooth.
Now it's time for tempering: Stir the chocolate mixture over the water bath until it has reached a temperature of 40-45 °C. Remove bowl from water bath and continue stirring for 1-2 minutes. Use a second water bath with a temperature of 20-25 °C to cool down molten chocolate to 26-27 °C. Again, remove bowl from the water bath and stir for 1-2 minutes.
For the last step, you need a water bath with a temperature of no more than 35 °C as the chocolate is now heated up very gently to 28-29 °C. Personally, I just add some cold water to my 55 °C water bath. After the molten mass has reached its final temperature, stir again for 1-2 minutes without water bath.
Phew, done! Now you just need to pour the chocolate into dry and clean silicon molds and cover it with the honeyed almonds. If you do not have any molds, just dip the almond bars into the chocolate or decorate them as desired. Leftover chocolate can easily be poured onto parchment paper to create beautiful dark chocolate bark. Now let your biscuits cool in a cold room or in the fridge.