One of the things I have to write today is a recipe. It’s a recipe that I kind of made up, so it I don’t write it down I’ll forget the whole thing.

Here’s the deal: we’re doing Secret Santa at my workplace this year. The girl I drew out is one of our part-timers – very nice, bright, young, and into her horses. She’s also moving out of home to go to university, and was diagnosed as coeliac this year, which has made her life a bit more complicated. I don’t know enough about horses to be able to buy a horse-owner something useful on a $10 limit, so I figured I’d give her some gluten-free treats along with a recipe so that she can make them herself. Because gluten-free food is expensive, and young people moving out on their own into the world need to know how to feed themselves.

Sounds straightforward, right? Well, I wanted the baking to be fresh (hint: I’m actually very unprepared for Christmas) so I decided to make it the day before I needed it. I had settled on making Florentines, because the flavors of chocolate and fruit are very Christmassy, and because I thought these lacy Italian confections would be easy to make… Turns out that they’re not. Not at all.

I got up very early so that I could get them done before work. I found a recipe on the internet, but my first batch turned out as huge, chewy puddles. I thought I might be able to save them by putting them back in the oven for a couple minutes to crisp up some more. And then it turns out that the line between chewy and burnt is very fine. I did another batch, now starting to run late for work, and slammed them in the oven. Then I put my work clothes in the dryer, sorted out my lunch, and climbed in the shower with lightning speed. Luckily my husband got up and wandered blearily into the bathroom.

“Baking smells good,” he yawned.

… “Oh crap!” I yelled from the shower. “They’re still in the oven!”

So that was another batch of bitter, blackened sugar that landed in the bin, and by now I was all out of almonds. My husband chuckled that this was so like me – getting up specially early to do some crazy scheme and then forgetting it halfway through and letting it burn. I pretended to be offended, but he’s quite right. The Secret Santa gifts were supposed to be in today, but they’re not being handed out until Thursday so there was no getting around it. I’d have to stop by the supermarket after work and get some more ingredients in order to give it another go.

Sitting in the car at the supermarket after work, I decided to research a few more recipes to see if I could figure out how to make the Florentines a bit crunchier and less puddley. I bought some different ingredients. What the heck – I was swiftly running out of time to get this right! It called for some experimentation now.

Thankfully, what I ended up with actually worked!… Eventually… At midnight… Well, it wouldn’t be Christmas if I wasn’t sweating through some mad, tangled cookery in the wee hours of the morning. This is my Christmas every year. And unfortunately (considering Christmas seems to entail weeks upon weeks of eating garbage) sweets are totally my turf. It’s not the holidays until I’ve sweated out a bucket of handmade tiramisu, a sack of nougat, various filled chocolates, and 5 tons of amazing fudge. And all of this occurs at midnight, after work. Hell, you try getting chocolate to set when the house is 30 degrees celsius and we have 95% humidity!

Anyway, here’s the recipe I ended up with:


  • 4 Tbls Butter
  • 3 heaped Tbl Brown Sugar
  • 4 Tbls Cornflour
  • 4 Tbsl Slivered Almonds
  • 4 Tbls Sliced Almonds
  • 3 Tbls Dried Cranberries (roughly chopped)
  • 2 Tbls Mixed Peel
  • 4 Tbls Gluten-Free Cornflakes
  • 1/2 cup Dark Cooking Chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Cover a wide baking sheet with baking paper and set aside.

Gently melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the brown sugar and stir over the heat until well blended. When the mixture begins to simmer, remove it from the heat and sift in the cornflour. Beat well until no lumps are visible.

Add the nuts, fruit and cornflakes to the sugar mixture. Mix well to blend.

Using a teaspoon, spoon small amounts of the mixture on the baking sheet. Leave lots of room between them, as the cookies with spread a lot. Flatten out each ball of mixture with the back of the spoon until they are as thin as possible.

Bake in the preheated oven for around 8 minutes. Remove from the oven when they are golden brown. Keep close watch, as they can burn very quickly.

While the cookies are still soft and buttery, use a knife to separate them on the baking sheet and shape them how you want. Remember that they will harden to crispy, so work quickly. Allow the cookies to cool and harden on the baking sheet.

Melt the chocolate according to the pack’s instructions, remembering to keep it away from water or steam. Use a spoon to drizzle the melted chocolate over the Florentines, and leave somewhere cool to set.







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