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How I found grace in a gooey, chocolatey indulgence


June was a difficult month in our household and I didn’t feel able to do any blogging. Somewhere in the middle, I experienced a crushing disappointment.

It wasn’t completely unexpected, and I found myself responding as I usually do to life’s hurts. I withdrew from all but my dearest. I ignored pinging text messages, the telephone and the doorbell. I took time to cry, sleep, think and mooch about. I know from experience that solitude and space help me recover.

But what I hadn’t anticipated was a sweet moment of grace that taught me something new about myself.

In the midst of my sadness, I thought about baking. Seriously.

And this from a woman who in the past could have given lessons in kitchen avoidance techniques.

It wasn’t so much the idea that some extravagant treat would produce a feel-good sugar rush and sweet-coat the bitter pill I had swallowed. It was more that the process itself might have some kind of mind-and-heart soothing effect.

Perhaps I reasoned subconsciously that a concentrated focus would help me forget the ache for a while. Or perhaps I was inspired to create something new and satisfying out of disparate parts, or to bring joy to those who would eat the treats. I really don’t know.

But I trawled through my recipes and settled on Florentines. Despite them being one of my favourite indulgences, I haven’t made them before. So bake I did.

And those mouthfuls of crunchy nut-and-toffee deliciousness, layered with dark chocolate turning more gooey with every mouthful, not only delighted friends and family, but – surprisingly – took me a step closer to my healing. Making them brought a fresh and different rhythm of grace into difficult circumstances.

It is such sweet moments of grace, gifted to us by a loving Father who knows what we need just when we need it, that often sustain us on our journey.


Chocolate Florentines

Here’s the Sainsbury’s recipe I used (it makes about 12). The combination of nuts, toffee and chocolate is difficult to resist (and why would you want to)!

50g unsalted butter

100g light brown soft sugar

1tbsp plain flour

75ml crème fraiche

50g flaked almonds

¼ tsp mixed spice

125g unsalted peanuts & raisins

50g Brazil nuts, roughly chopped

125g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

25g white chocolate, broken into pieces


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan 160°C). Line two baking trays with baking parchment.

2. Put the butter and brown sugar in a pan and melt over a gentle hear. Stir in the flour and bring to the boil. Stir in the crème fraiche and remove from the heat. Add the almonds, mixed spice, peanuts and raisins, and Brazil nuts, and mix well.

3. Spoon tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the trays and gently flatten with a spoon. Space them well apart as they will expand as they cook.

4. Bake for 12 – 15 mins until golden. Leave the Florentines on the baking parchment and lift onto a cooling rack. Once cooled, turn them over ready for the melted chocolate.

5. Melt the chocolate in separate bowls in the microwave (on medium, in 30 second bursts; keep checking). Or bring a little water to a simmer in a pan and suspend a heatproof bowl over it (don’t allow the base of the bowl to touch the water). Add the chocolate pieces and stir until smooth and melted.

6. Spread the Florentines’ bases with the melted dark chocolate. Then drizzle over the melted white chocolate in thin lines. Chill to set.


If I make them again I’ll probably avoid adding the crème fraiche when the mixture’s boiling, and follow the Hairy Bikers’ instructions to gradually combine it over a medium heat, stirring continuously.

The Florentines really do spread over the baking sheet, making them thin round the edges. Next time I might try spreading the mix into a baking tray, and cutting it into neat squares once it’s cooked and slightly cooled. Another recipe suggested using walnut-sized scoops of the mixture and, once baked, immediately reshaping them into circles using a cookie cutter or knife, before allowing them to cool. Enjoy!


10 responses »

  1. Hello

    Very honest and moving blog. Thanks for writing it

    When preparing to work nights I snooze/listen to sermons or talks on the desiring god website. I heard the first 45 mins of the linked video before I had to get up, put on my cape and go and fight crime.
    The video, which is over an hour long, is an interview of a woman dealing with grief and seeking understanding in the pain.
    I found it useful and suggest you get a cup of coffee a batch of chocolate florentines and listen.


    • Thank you, Mike. Have listened to some of it so far… challenging stuff, especially the bits about what faith really is. Like the sound of the coffee and florentines though! Might just have to get baking again. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing so honestly – love the fact that you included the recipe, too!

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Fiona. Poring over recipes seems to be one of my most time-consuming occupations, so I guess it was appropriate to share something of my labours! 🙂

  3. We underestimate the power of cake. Thanks for the post, and the recipe!

    • Love that, Fran – “the power of cake”! It is amazing how ‘comfort food’ can make us feel so much better when we’re down. But the surprise for me this time was that it was the baking process, as much as the edible result, that had such a positive effect. Guess I need to do more of it (my hubby will be pleased to hear)!

  4. 1 Sam 30:12 “And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs and two clusters of raisins, and when he had eaten, his spirit came again to him.”

    Thanks for sharing your moving and personal story. This recipe is worth a try.

    • Great scripture! It reminded me that there are numerous places in the Bible where God restores people through food and fellowship. Have you read ‘Bread & Wine (a love letter to life around the table, with recipes)‘ by Shauna Niequist? It’s on my wish list as it sounds like a fabulous book about family, friends and the meals they share… the kind of book I wish I’d written. 🙂

      • Shauna Niequist’s book ‘Bittersweet (Thoughts on Change, Grace and Learning the Hard Way), essays on her personal experiences, illustrating that “rejoicing is no less rich even when it contains a splinter of sadness” is worth a read.

      • Thanks for the recommendation! All three of her books look interesting and I love the foodie titles/themes. But Bread & Wine appeals to me most, particularly in light of the most famous bread-and-wine meal of all and the ultimate grace which it brought, and still does. 🙂

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