If you are still in the mood for festive flavours, here is another amazing recipe I tried for the "We Made It" Challenge with Melinda from Melbourne Larder. Between us, we decided to seek inspiration from this month's Gourmet Traveller, and cook as much as possible from the magazine. While we originally thought that December was a great month to start this project, the biggest problem I hit was that it was December. In other words, if you are like me, you may well spend December in the kitchen, but this is the month when you are making all your old traditional favourites. So no matter how good the Gourmet Traveller ham or turkey looked, I was only ever going to cook Aunty Judy's ham recipe and Mum's turkey recipe (which incidentally, I promise to post in time for next Christmas. I couldn't post it any earlier because the only photo I had of Mum's turkey recipe was of me, sweaty and exhausted on a boiling hot Xmas Day pulling the bird out of the oven. Was that photo going to appear on the blog? No way. Not ever.)
But now, thanks to Gourmet Traveller, I have another tradition to add to my permanent Xmas list: cranberry-rosemary florentine bars. These appeared in an article featuring the recipes of patissier of the moment, Adriano Zumbo. Zumbo has been building a profile for the last few years, starting with the odd mention in the food pages of the paper, before building to a star turn on both Masterchef and Celebrity Masterchef. Every time the Masterchef contestants were challenged with a Zumbo recipe, the judges would suck some air back through their teeth, shake their heads and discuss how many "processes" were involved. It was this image that kept popping into my head as I was making these bars: Gary and George shaking their heads and saying, "but how many processes does she still need to complete?" And I must admit, at the end of the cooking, I thought to myself "well, that was interesting. Rather serious effort for a Christmas sweet. Maybe next year I should set my sights a little lower. Who needs to do so much work at this time of year? Who really wants some fancy-pants chocolates?"
But then I tasted them, and the answer is ME ME ME. I will slave in the kitchen every year just so I can have another hit of those chocolates. Zumbo says in his GT introduction “These were inspired partly by stuffing mix from Christmas, with the rosemary, but made into a chocolate." I never would have contemplated rosemary and chocolate together, but these were phenomenal - a really perfect balance between sweet and savoury, and filled with so much flavour, that, even though I cut them smaller than Zumbo, one is plenty. And almost everyone who tried them was bewitched by the flavour. I must also admit, that while there are plenty of processes, none are very hard. It's just that there are a lot. But for the end result? I promise you will never hear another word of complaint from me. Gosh, I would even cop another process or two, just to eat them again. Really.
You start by making the flaked almond layer of the florentine; once that is in the fridge, you move onto the rosemary sable biscuit dough. These biscuits are cut into 1cm squares and baked until they are golden. Then all except 16 are crushed. (In case you were wondering, I have never made biscuits before for the sole purpose of smashing them up.) The recipe then asks you to process rosemary and cream in a small food processor. I only have a large food processor, so I decided to do this bit in the blender, and very quickly created something that more closely approximated rosemary butter than cream flecked with rosemary. I wasn't about to throw in the towel at this point, so I added a couple of extra tablespoons of pouring cream, and continued. The cream and rosemary are then brought to the boil, then left to infuse before being poured over the white chocolate and crushed pistachios to make a ganache and folded with the crushed biscuits. Zumbo then instructs that this mixture is poured over the almonds. My mixture was so thick that pouring was impossible, so I wound up taking a sheet of glad wrap and using it to push the mix flat on top of the almonds. That mix is then left to set in the fridge ofr 6 hours to overnight, before it is cut into bars, dipped in chocolate and decorated. And the final piece of advice comes from Zumbo: "The secret here is to not overcook them or the sugars become too reduced and they become too hard. And, no suprises, you’ll need to begin this recipe a day ahead.
Rosemary Cranberry Florentine Bars
Australian Gourmet Traveller Dec 09
Cooking Time Prep time 40 mins, cook 40 mins (plus infusing, cooling, setting)
125 gm flaked almonds
150 gm Tasmanian leatherwood honey (I just used the normal honey I had)
100 ml pouring cream
35 gm liquid glucose (I used corn syrup as a subsitute)
15 gm glacé cherries, finely chopped (I used some dates)
35 gm dried cranberries, finely chopped, plus extra whole, to serve
350 gm dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
rosemary leaves and coarsely chopped pistachios
25 gm caster sugar
1½ tbsp rosemary leaves
50 gm (1/3 cup) plain flour
35 gm cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tsp lightly beaten egg
Pistachio and rosemary ganache
60 ml (¼ cup) pouring cream
½ cup (loosely packed) rosemary leaves
115 gm good-quality white chocolate, finely chopped
20 gm pistachio kernels, pounded in a mortar and pestle until finely crushed
1 tsp liquid glucose
25 gm softened butter
Preheat oven to 180C. Spread almonds on an oven tray and roast, stirring occasionally, until golden (5-7 minutes), set aside. Stir honey, cream and glucose in a saucepan over medium-high heat until combined, then cook until mixture reaches 123C on a sugar thermometer (10-12 minutes). Stir in almonds, cranberries and cherries, then spoon into a 22cm-square cake pan lined with baking paper, smooth top and refrigerate until set (1-2 hours).
Meanwhile, for rosemary sablé, reduce oven to 160C. Process sugar and rosemary in a small food processor or spice grinder until finely chopped, then transfer to a mixing bowl. Add flour and butter and rub in with your fingertips until fine crumbs form. Add egg, mix until a dough just forms (don’t overwork it) then flatten into a square, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate to rest (1-2 hours). Roll out on a lightly floured surface to 7mm thick, cut into 1cm squares and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake until golden (10-15 minutes), cool completely and coarsely crush.
For pistachio and rosemary ganache, process cream and rosemary in a small food processor to break down leaves, transfer to a saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, stand for 20 minutes to infuse, then bring back to the boil. Combine chocolate, pistachio and glucose in a heatproof bowl, strain over cream mixture and stir to combine. Stir in butter, fold in rosemary sablé (reserve 16 pieces to garnish). Pour over almond mixture, smooth top, cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate until firm (6 hours-overnight), turn out and cut into 3cm x 9cm bars.
Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Dip bars into chocolate, shaking off excess, and place on trays lined with baking paper. Decorate each bar with a rosemary leaf, a cranberry, a pistachio and a little remaining rosemary sablé, then refrigerate until set (10-15 minutes). Cranberry-rosemary Florentine bars will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
This recipe is from the December 2009 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine.