Wednesday, March 14, 2012


When I was a school girl, my mother used to make me eat a handful of blanched almonds every day.  She’d read somewhere that almonds were brain food and obviously my lacklustre performance in school must have troubled her , hence the almonds.

Frankly, I hated them. Blanched almonds didn’t taste great. Plus, they were unseasoned. Not a grain of salt went on them. It was torture for me and, I am assuming, torture for my mother getting me to eat them. Sometimes, I’d tell her to pack them ... that I would eat them on my way to school and three days later she’d find them in my schoolbag, wrapped up in a piece of tissue, rotting. Well, not rotting but definitely past their prime.

Yes, I was a challenge to bring up.

After months of trying, mum gave up and she devised other ways of getting me to eat my daily dose of brain food. I must have been truly an under performer for her to go to such lengths. My favouritest of her almond concoctions was a steamed almond pudding that was only slightly sweet but nice and milky. Oh! I think she thanked the heavens when I professed my love for the custard and actually begged her to make it more often.

I don’t know if it improve my academic performance much or at all (unlike my brother who loved to learn, I found studying a chore) but it surely made me love almonds.

I never did get the recipe for the almond custard from my mum - this will be one of my many regrets - but I have found many other recipes with almonds that I love.

This recipe for Florentines is based on one from Ottolenghi, a restaurant in London. The original is flavoured with orange zest and coated in chocolate. I resisted the chocolate as I didn’t want to underwhelm the almonds. And, I omitted the zest as I didn’t have oranges in my kitchen. Still, the Florentines turned out good.

There is nothing complicated about making Florentines: ingredients are few and the process is simple. For such little effort, you get a crunchy, nutty treat that can be eaten at any time.

1 egg white 
13/4 cup blanched sliced almonds
1/3 cup icing sugar
pinch of salt
drop of vanilla

Preheat the oven to 150C.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly oil the paper.

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Using a fork or a spoon, lift a portion of the mixture (about a tablespoon's worth) onto the baking sheet and spread it as thin as possible, keeping the almond slices close together.

Repeat, leaving about 1cm gap between each portion. 

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cookies are cooked through. You can use a spatula or a palette knife to gently lift one cookie to check if the bottom has cooked. They should be a lovely shade of golden when done. 

Remove, cool and eat.

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