Sugar is one of the more protean substances, as it can morph from liquid to solid, chewy to crunchy, and subtle to over-the-top. Since just a few degrees of temperature radically changes its composition and the resulting product, it can be quite a challenge to tame. There is a sweet spot in caramelizing sugar, the edge right before it begins to burn, that is just sublime. This is the land of Clarine’s Florentines.
An intoxicating scent of almost burnt caramel, a woodsy, sweet, slightly campfire-like aroma, beckoned from the second I opened the package. It was almost like those old cartoon images of an irresistible aroma making lazy spirals and curlicues in the air above a character’s head. Eventually, the besotted creature breathes in that charged air, and after paroxysms of joy seeks out its source. In the cartoons, the protagonist rarely gets to partake of the tempting morsel. Luckily for me, I had one of Clarine’s Florentines at hand, so I could experience the multitude of sensations: crunchy slivered almonds encased in that almost burnt caramelized sugar, a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate, and those rich little shards of almond. All came together in a riot of aroma, texture, and flavor.
Visually, their glazed oak color, lovely round shape (about 3″ in diameter), and painted dark chocolate base would be captivating if alternated on a platter with one disc almond side up and the next one chocolate side up; that is, if you can bear to part with them.
In the land of upscale chocolates where a high end truffle can easily cost $2, or more, Clarice’s Florentine’s ($9.99 for 5.5 ounces) are a rare find. If you live in California they are carried at a number of stores, just check clarinesflorentines.com; or, if you live elsewhere, try foodzie.com.