When the temperature dropped from 100 to 94, I was gripped by the urge to bake, and the cookie I craved most was a Florentine. Because it is chewy and crisp, buttery and caramelly, citrusy and chocolatey, it satisfies candy and cookie cravings. I’ve tried many recipes and found fault with them all–too fussy, too stodgy, too complicated, too sweet, not chocolatey nor citrusy enough–and then developed my own: simple, forgiving, delicate, and, if you use good ingredients, utterly delicious. You’ll be making a caramel syrup that simmers unattended for 20-25 minutes, grinding nuts with citrus peel, then combining the two mixtures.

NB: I’ve never tried the recipe in a humid climate; because honey and the syrups are humectants (they absorb moisture) I wonder if the cookies become too gooey. Using all sugar might be the answer. These cookies break easily (but the chocolate gives them strength!). If you want a sturdier cookie, you can add one or two tablespoons of flour. I’ve made them with chestnut flour to keep them gluten-free. I like using raw cashew pieces because they are already skinned and easy to obtain, although this does move the cookie away from its Italian origins. If you don’t have a stash of candied orange peel, you can make it (easily) or buy it. I’ve made them with candied grapefruit rind, which lends a sophisticated bitterness. The cookies keep well–refrigerated or frozen if it’s 100 degrees, otherwise at room temperature in an airtight container. I’ve kept them (albeit in winter) for a month. The recipe makes four or five dozen, depending on the size.


4 Tbs unsalted butter

½ cup sugar

2/3 cup heavy cream

2/3 cup honey or golden syrup or corn syrup or combination.

½ tsp salt

Simmer together (low heat, uncovered) for 20-25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

In food processor, combine:

1 ½ cups raw cashew pieces or almonds or combination (12 ounces)

1 cup candied orange rind chopped into one-inch or smaller pieces (8 ounces) (I make my own from organic citrus in the winter and keep it in the refrigerator for this and other uses.

Drops of citrus essential oil if you like–I usually add 10 drops of tangerine oil.

Pulse/chop the nuts with the citrus rind until pieces of both are about the size of grains of rice.

Stir fruit/nut mixture into the cooled caramel mixture.

Drop by half teaspoons on parchment and pat with a finger moistened in water to a circle. Cookies will spread to about 2 1/2 inches, so space them generousl Bake at 350 or 360 (if you are impatient) for about 15 minutes or until evenly brown. Cookies will firm upon cooling. Once the cookies are cool, brush the back of each one with a thin layer of tempered bittersweet chocolate (you’ll need about a pound, or maybe more!) I use a silicone brush which is easy to clean. To temper 72% chocolate, melt it to 105 degrees, then let cool to 80 before brushing. This assures a crisp snap and a shiny look. It also helps preserve the cookie.

simmering caramel

midstage caramel

Summer Fruit Sparkling Wine Gelatin

I had a bottle of sparkling riesling wine not good enough for drinking and wanted to serve it with summer fruit…but wondered how to make it more substantial, more dramatic? Gelatin! Not good for vegetarians (next time I’ll try agar agar, which has a different texture) but easy. Put 3 packets of unflavored gelatin in a cup of sparkling wine. Heat another cup of the wine to boiling, then add a couple tablespoons each of honey and lemon juice (or a teaspoon of TruLemon powder). Mix the gelatin-wine mush with the hot wine and then add the remaining cup of cold or room temperature sparkling wine. Taste. It might need more honey or lemon. Let the wine-gelatin mix cool, then pour it over 6 cups of washed, cut fruit in a large bowl. I used sliced strawberries, halved cherries and cantaloupe balls–but you can use any summer fruit: halved grapes, honeydew melon, plums, apricots, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, etc. Make sure the pieces are bite-sized. Refrigerate the bowl for at least 4 hours and up to 3 days (maybe longer? will the fruit begin to weep through the gelatin?). To unmold, briefly set the bowl in a larger basin of hot water and invert on a serving plate. Or place the bowl upside down on a serving plate and then cover the bottom of the bowl with a hot wet cloth (use the microwave). The sparkling aspect of the wine comes through in a subdued way and the fruit is enhanced without being overshadowed. The dessert feels very light (after all, it’s mostly fruit) but still festive. You could cut it into wedges or serve with a spoon. Serves about 8.