If you want to appear as if you are an incredibly gifted baker, impressing your guests, friends and family; learn to bake Florentines. This exquisite cookie is one which mass producers of packaged cookies haven’t been able to manufacture – thank goodness! They are too delicate, too sensitive to humidty and temperature to be packaged and transported. So you’ll see them only in bakeries having discriminating tastes and an ample dose of patience.
Not that Florentines are difficult, they are not. They’re not even time consuming to make. The batter comes together in just a few minutes as long as you have on hand the two ingredients that will bog you down if trying to ‘do it all’ in one time allotment. Advice to those who want to give these cookies a try: make the candied orange peel and toast the almonds a day or two ahead. You’ll be amazed how quickly these delicate delights will then come together.
I had a large bag of navel oranges a number of weeks ago and had the foresight to save the peels. I kept the quartered peels in my fridge until I had enough to make the process worth the investment. I simply scored the whole orange into fourths, peeled the oranges, and scraped most of the pith (the white part of the skin) out of the peel. Keep the peels in an airtight container or zip lock bag until you have a nice stash. Having the peels of about 8-10 oranges will give you enough peel for two batches of these cookies. When oranges are in season, this is a great way to make good use of those fragrant peelings that usually get tossed in the compost heap or garbage can.
Slice the orange peel into julienne strips, then cut the strips crosswise into tiny cubes. (If you’d like to leave some of the peel in strips and dip into dark chocolate, well, that’s a treat that you’ll enjoy almost as much as the cookies.)
Cover the orange peel with cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and cover again with cold water. Repeat the simmering and draining process twice. After the third draining, return the zest to the pan and add 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar. Boil gently until the syrup has become very thick and nearly completely evaporated. Add another 1/4 cup of ganulated sugar and toss to coat the orange peel. Turn out onto a parchment lined sheet pan and separate the pieces. Cool and allow to dry. (You can certainly use the peel the day that you make it, but sitting it aside to dry will make it easier to handle.)
Spread 2 cups of almond slivers on a rimmed baking dish. Bake for 5-8 minutes in a pre-heated oven until lightly and uniformly browned. Cool, then chop into small pieces. Now you are ready to make the Florentines. This recipe is a combination of Susan Branch’s Christmas Joy cookbook, King Arthur Flour’s Cookie Companion and a dose of intuition about adding the ginger.
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 2 cups finely chopped, toasted almonds
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup finely diced candied orange peel
- 1/4 cup minced candied ginger
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 8-10 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or use chocolate chips)
Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Melt the butter with the cream and sugar over low heat. Once melted, raise the temperature and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the almonds, flour, orange peel, ginger and almond extract. Stir well.
Drop the batter by scant tablespoons onto the parchment lined pans, leaving plenty of room between cookies. Using a spatula, spread the batter to a even disc shape. I only bake 12 cookies to a 12×16″ (half sheet pan size) pan. These cookies spread alot!
Bake for 10-12 minutes – watch closely. You’ll think they will never brown, then they are over-browned. Remove from oven. While very hot, use the back of a teaspoon the ‘push’ the edges back to a more evenly round shape. (You don’t have to do this, but they look a bit prettier.) Alternately, you could use a round cookie cutter to score the edges of the cookies, leaving the crumbly edges on the paper (to sprinkle on vanilla ice cream – YUM). Cool the cookies completely. Remove from the sheet pans so that you can bake the next batch. I got 48 – 3″ cookies from this batch, and actually left the batter at room temperature after baking the first 2 dozen, then baked the remaining 24 cookies the second day.
Melt the chocolate over extrememly low heat. When slightly cooled and thickened, spread a bit on the flat side of each cookie. You can use a fork or cake comb to make a wavy pattern on the warm chocolate. Cool until the chocolate sets. (I usually put my cookies in the freezer for 5 minutes to rush this along, after all, once you’re finished, you shouldn’t have to wait too long to enjoy these yummy cookies.)
Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and munch away.