Florentines

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.

Caramel:

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

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