A Little Taste of Italy on My Holiday Sweet Plate
I love Florentine cookies. I have had them in all shapes and sizes and this recipe appealed to me as it holds to the tradition of the paper thin wafer-like cookie I am used to. The really thin buttery crust makes them easier to make than many recipes I have worked with. I got this recipe from my friend Rae and have only been making it since 2006. I usually make 2 trays of them as they are my dad’s favourite. One tray of Florentines is plenty if you don’t give away your Christmas baking.
These Florentines are easy to make, but do take some careful time and planning. Any distractions could lead to disaster (and have)! I always think of my trips to Italy when I make and munch these, yet the origin of the cookie is unclear. Some sources say Austria, and some Paris. It appears all agree that it is not Italy. Yet, you can find them in almost every Italian Panetteria in the Tuscan area.
The nutty gooey caramel is the perfect foil for the flaky shortbread crust, and the oily citrus zest adds a sparkle of freshness that is quite unexpected.
This is the exact point when the topping is done. You drag a spoon through it and the path remains…for a few seconds.
Preparing the foil is important. Use heavy foil. First, cover the underside of the pan, tucking in the corners carefully. Then, take if off, and turn over the pan. Place the foil gently inside of the pan, and pat it in place. If it rips, you need to start again. Do not think it won’t matter. It will, so just be careful.
It will seem like there is not enough pastry for the crust. There is. Just follow the instructions, exactly. The point is to have a very thin crust.
Cut the edges of the Florentine crust with a plastic spatula as in the above image so that the sides are all even. Take the remainder (image below, left) and add it back to the centre of the pastry. Bake 8-10 minutes. It looks like I could have turned mine in the oven, but it is fine.
Have the off-set buttered spatula ready. When the topping has cooked, you will need to use it immediately to press the topping evenly onto the crust. Then you bake it for 13-15 minutes ensuring that the topping does not brown.
Cut the Florentines into bars with a sharp knife after 10 minutes. Then melt the chocolate, and decorate the bars. They will look good no matter how you muck about, so don’t worry about it. Be prepared to surprise yourself with your culinary prowess! I could eat them all, they are so tasty. Florentines were never found on the old traditional prairie sweet plate at Christmas. It’s a riot to toss things up. And these foreign delicacies are the perfect fit!
Ingredients for the Crust:
- 2/3 cup butter
- 1 1/3 cup flour
- 1/3 cup icing sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup whole fresh almonds , peeled
Ingredients for the Topping:
- 2/3 cup superfine berry sugar
- 1/3 cup butter , softened
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped glace cherries
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped candied orange peel
- 1/4 cup candied lemon peel
- 1 t fresh orange zest
- 1 t fresh lemon zest
- 1 cup sliced , unbleached almonds
x 15 inch jelly roll pan
lined carefully with foil (see pictorial instructions above), and
buttered with melted butter on the inside of the pan carefully
do not tear the foil
pre-heat oven 350ºF
Keep in Mind:
bake the crust 15 minutes
bake the crust with the topping on it for 13-15 minutes
Instructions for the Crust:
Pre-heat oven to 350°F
Melt butter, and cool
Place all other ingredients into a food processor and pulse 8 to 10 times; process for one minute until fine and cakey
Using a fork, stir into butter mixture
(I added the butter to the nut mixture in the Thermomix bowl and it mixed until crumbled; then put it in a bowl and distributed it onto the pan as directed)
Divide dough into 8 potions; situate the 8 portions evenly within the pan (it will be very difficult to pat into the pan as the crust is extremely thin)
Keep working at it (plastic wrap may help); make sure it is even all around the edges
Bake at 350°F for 9-10 minutes until slightly browned and let stand 8-10 minutes, at least, to firm up
Instructions for the Topping:
Pre-heat oven to 350°F
Place first 5 ingredients into a heavy sauce pan; bring to a boil
Stir gently and constantly until sugar has dissolved, then one more minute
Mix in candied fruits, zest, and nuts, blending well
Cook the mixture over low heat 6 - 8 minutes or until it begins to thicken and the caramel starts to darken
IMMEDIATELY pour onto the crust, and spread with a BUTTERED off-set spatula (this can be hard as if not done quickly will be too hard to spread and sticky enough to lift the crust)
Bake 13-15 minutes at 350°F until bubbly on the top and the surface has begun to turn brown; do not over bake (watch carefully from 12 minutes on)
Cool completely on wire rack
Making the Florentine Cookie Bars:
Melt dark chocolate over double boiler, and place in plastic squeeze bottle or plastic bag with tip cut off
Remove slab from cookie sheet on foil; cut in half, still on foil, then cut into rectangular bars about one by one and ¾ inches
Zig-zag chocolate diagonally across the Florentine bars, quickly
Store in a tightly sealed container, or freeze until ready to serve