Ok, I admit it. I’m addicted to the Great British Bake-Off (GBBO). I discovered the show on Netflix and quickly binge-watched all three seasons of the show available through streaming. After I worked my way through the GBBO episodes, I binge-watched all three seasons of the Great British Bake Off Master’s Classes, the supplementary series to GBBO in which judges and master bakers Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood demonstrate the way to make the signature dishes featured in each season’s episodes. Having watched all the episodes available on Netflix, I’m going through withdrawal so badly that I’m considering paying Amazon.com $20 per season just to have more episodes to enjoy. The show is such a pleasure to watch. The contestants on the British baking show are wonderful; although competing against one another, they show genuine support and consideration for one another throughout each episode. Show hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins make helpful and supportive comments to the contestants, sometimes even lending a struggling contestant a helpful hand. Berry and Hollywood offer encouraging remarks, as well as instructional advice, to the bakers as they walk through the tent while the bakers are preparing their dishes and when they judge the final baked products. For this reason, the show is as educational as it is entertaining. Perhaps best of all is the way Berry and Hollywood describe the offerings they like as tasting lovely, beautiful, or gorgeous. I’ve never heard a judge on an American cooking competition show use adjectives generally used to describe the appearance of a thing to describe the flavor of a dish or baked product. It works, though, to get across the point that the dish is successful.
Sadly, Love Productions, the company that produces GBBO, is moving the show from the BBC (where it has aired since its inception in 2010) to Channel 4. As a result of the move, Mary Berry, Mel Giedroyc, and Sue Perkins are leaving the show; only Paul Hollywood has decided to follow the show to Channel 4. Even worse than the loss of three-fourths of the show’s original team is that according to a recent article in The Telegraph Prue Leith, who is to replace Mary Berry as judge in the 2017 season, calls for “healthier recipes” for the show. Whatever. Watching people make “healthy” food is no fun at all. Moreover, cakes and cookies with less sugar and butter miss the entire point of cake and cookies. I whole-heartedly agree with 2015 GBBO champion Nadiya Hussein, who according to the article, “advised contestants against sugar-free and fat-free baking,” saying it amounts to “flavor-free.” Nadiya is apparently going to air in a new BBC cooking show meant to compete with Channel 4’s GBBO. I hope Nadiya’s show will be successful, and will be made available to the USA via Netflix or the Internet. I look forward to watching it.
In the meantime, I also look forward to recreating in gluten-free form some of the most delicious cakes and pastries recipes from earlier seasons of GBBO. Some of the cakes and pastries the contestants on the show baked were unfamiliar to me before I started watching the show. The familiar and unfamiliar baked delights all seem so delicious, and one can’t watch the show without wanting to taste each cake, bread, and pastry the contestants were tasked to bake. The only way I will be able to enjoy these newly discovered cakes and pastries, of course, is to deglutenize the recipes. Thankfully all the recipes, such as this one for delicious, chocolate-coated, fruity florentines, are available online, on the BBC website. British, like European, recipes, are written according to the Imperial system (metric weight); therefore, they are especially easy to adapt to gluten-free versions. To make this gluten-free version of Mary Berry’s florentine recipe is super simple. All that needs replacing is 50g of flour, which I replaced with 50 g of cassava flour (NOT tapioca starch – cassava flour is the dried, peeled, and ground cassava root, whereas tapioca starch goes through a process to isolate the starch from the rest of the root).
To make the candied orange peel, I use the method Mary Berry uses to make candied peel. After years of making candied peels in large amounts of water that result in a large amount of syrup that I end up throwing out after a few uses in other dishes, I find Mary’s method much more logical and economical. She uses little water and sugar to prepare her candied peels. By the time the peels are ready, the liquid has reduced into a small amount of real syrup that is easily used in a drizzle cake or stirred into a glass of iced Topo Chico for a light, fruity beverage. Mary’s method of making candied peels is now my go-to method.
This recipe (as well as many others from GBBO) requires an ingredient called golden syrup: a thick, honey-colored form of inverted sugar syrup made in the process of refining sugar cane into sugar. While not widely available in US grocery stores, some stores carry it in their import sections. Additionally, some World Markets stock golden syrup, as do some HEB Central Market locations. Of course, like most other goods on this planet, golden syrup is also available online from Amazon.com. Golden syrup has an unusual flavor; I would hesitate to substitute some other type of syrup in the recipe. Honey, though, might be an acceptable substitute.
One note of warning about baking these gluten-free florentine cookies: bake them on a day with low humidity. They turn out too sticky and soft when baked on really humid days, most likely because the cookie base begins with butter, sugar, and golden syrup melted together in a pan. When baked on days with low humidity, these cookies turn out perfectly every time. They are so rich, so full of favor, yet so easy to make that this cookie recipe will become one of your favorites to whip up for a special occasion or just simply to enjoy with afternoon coffee.
- 1 orange
- 300 g / 10.5 oz granulated sugar, separated
- 50g/1¾oz butter
- 50g/1¾oz granulated sugar
- 50g/1¾oz golden syrup
- 50g/1¾oz cassava flour
- 25g/1oz dried cherries, finely chopped
- 50g/1¾oz candied peel, finely chopped
- 25g/1oz almonds, finely chopped
- 25g/1oz walnut pieces, finely chopped
- 150g/5oz Guittard 63% chocolate chips
- Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-proof bowl. In twenty-second blasts, microwave the chocolate chips, stirring every twenty seconds, until the chocolate chips are almost, but not completely melted. Stir the chocolate vigorously to melt the rest of the chocolate until completely smooth.
- Using a pastry brush, brush the chocolate onto the backs of the completely cooled florentine cookies. Immediately after applying the chocolate onto the cookies, use a fork to form the wavy lines characteristic of florentine cookies though the chocolate. Cool the cookies chocolate-side up on racks until the chocolate is hardened. Enjoy!
- Spread a little melted chocolate over the flat base of each florentine and leave to cool slightly before marking a zigzag in the chocolate with a fork. Leave to set, chocolate side up on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container.