Florentines

Florentines

True facts about the Florentine…

~ There’s a bakery down the road from here that makes florentines as big as your open hand. No really. If you’re in the neighborhood, you must go get two; one for now and one for later.

Florentines - Orange peels

~ The genesis of my dream florentine is oranges. Some people make florentines without any candied fruit at all; some people make them with a combination of fruits. But if orange isn’t the predominant flavor, it just doesn’t count as a florentine for me.

Florentines - Toasted almonds

Florentines - Ingredients

~ The florentine name suggests that this cookie is from Italy, specifically Florence. That’s what I thought, anyway. I was wrong. In fact, no one really seems to know where this cookie was invented, though all evidence points to France. If you want to read a little more about the history of the florentine, you should check out this interesting post from Honestcooking.com.

Florentines - Syrup

~ H, in utero, was formed from four major food groups: frozen yogurt, fruit salad, bistro ham sandwiches, and florentines. Alas, today, she has lost her taste for all but the first.

Florentines - Nut, syrup, and peel mixture

Florentines - Baked

~ The recipe for florentines seems long when I write it out, but there are no really finicky steps and it’s easy to break the recipe down into manageable pieces. For instance, when I made them I broke the process into three easy days:

  1. Make the candied orange peels (you can skip this step if you already have the orange peels or are buying them).
  2. Make the syrup, almond, fruit, and flour mixture. Then bake the cookies.
  3. Spread the chocolate.

Making the candied orange peels from scratch is the only step that takes much time, and even that isn’t too bad.

Florentines - Chocolate hardening

~ Florentines stay fresh for a long time; unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they last a long time. It all depends on how well you can hide them. From me.

Florentines

Florentines

From Paris Boulangerie-Pâtisserie, by Linda Dannenberg (Gramercy Books, 1994)
Yield: 24 cookies

Ingredients
2 3/4 cups (200 g) sliced blanched almonds
1/3 cup (125 ml) heavy cream
7 tablespoons (100 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (100 g) sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup, lightly packed (50 g) candied cherries, chopped fine
1/4 cup (50 g) candied orange peel, chopped fine [note: I omitted the cherries and used 100 g total candied orange peel; this is the recipe I've used for years.]
1/3 cup (50 g) all-purpose flour
8 ounces (250 g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).
  2. Toast the sliced almonds by spreading them on a baking sheet, then putting them in the preheated oven. Stir them once or twice, until lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a saucepan, heat the cream, butter, sugar, and honey over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture is melted and comes to a boil. With a candy thermometer in the mixture, boil without stirring for about 3 minutes, until the mixture comes to a temperature of about 230ºF (120ºC), or until it forms a soft ball when a small amount is dropped into a cup of ice water. Remove from heat.
  4. Stir in the toasted almonds and chopped fruit, then stir in the flour until blended.
  5. Pour the mixture into a buttered 9-inch (23-cm) square baking ban and set aside to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for at least an hour (overnight is fine).
  6. When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC).
  7. Butter a 12-well muffin tin (or two tins, if you have them). Scoop up a tablespoon of the mixture and press it into the bottom of a well to spread it evenly and thinly (you may need to use more or less of the mixture to get the thickness of the cookie you want, depending on the size of the wells). Repeat to fill the muffin tins, or until you run out of the mixture. (Tip: If the mixture is lumpy, butter the bottom of a glass or other smooth object that has a slightly smaller diameter than the well, then use it to press down on the mixture to help it spread evenly.)
  8. Bake the cookies until they are golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool in the pan for about 4 minutes (here’s another opportunity to flatten the cookies while the mixture is warm; use the same buttered glass as mentioned above).
  9. While the florentines are still warm, gently coax them out of the pan with a spatula (I used an offset icing spatula) and transfer to a wire rack covered with parchment paper or a silpat. If necessary, gently reshape the cookies into circles while they are still warm.
  10. If you have any unbaked mixture left, repeat the well-filling and cookie-baking process until all the mixture is used.
  11. When the florentines are completely cooled, melt the chocolate over hot water until just smooth but not too hot. With a spatula, spread the smooth bottom of each florentine evenly with chocolate, then place the florentine back on the parchment paper/silpat, chocolate side up, to cool. If you like, use a pastry comb or fork to trace a pattern in the chocolate before it becomes firm.

Stored in an airtight container, florentines will keep for about two weeks.
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To see the round up of the group’s international dessert recipes, visit the My Kitchen My World (MKMW) site. (You can also see where the group has already traveled.) To join in, just make a dish (or more) for the month’s country, blog about it, and put a link to your post in the comments on the MKMW page.

Next month, we travel to Poland, my choice! (We were supposed to go in November, but most of us got a bit busy…)

Mini Meringue Buttons

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This may be my most hurried Let’s Lunch post ever, because today is crazy and I’m trying to do a zillion things at once, which may explain why this post, which was due for lunch today, is only just showing up now, an hour before dinner, and which may explain why I’m typing nearly as quickly as I’m thinking, but these little treats are best for dessert anyway, so after you’ve enjoyed your eggy lunches, you can settle into a handful of these, right?

*phew*

So please excuse typos and run-on sentences.

My original plan was to make giant meringues. The kind they sell in the bakery nearest my house. Big, puffy, cloud-like confections that H and I can’t resist. Meringues seemed like the perfect solution to this month’s Let’s Lunch theme of eggs because, well, I don’t like eggs. There. I said it.

To be clear, I love eggs as objects. They are perfect and beautiful and magical. They are elegant creations of nature. And I love what eggs do in a cake or even in fried rice. But eggs on their own, scrambled, fried, or poached are not for me (“And I am not for them,” Beatrice would say). If I can taste the egg, I don’t want it.

I know this probably makes me nearly inhuman. So be it. Eggs and I have not been on speaking terms since I was a kid, forced to finish my plate of the scrambled variety, and I don’t imagine that will change at this point.

Anyway, back to the meringues. Not only do they fit the theme, but they’re perfectly kosher for Passover, which starts this evening. Deal sealed.

The plan was for giants, and then H expressed an interest in colored ones, and then I thought about flavoring them (rose water, or earl grey, or..). In the end, lack of time and uncooperative egg whites that never wanted to reach the stiff peak stage helped guide me to this creation: mini meringue buttons.

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I dosed the meringue heavily with brilliant food coloring to get the tones I wanted. I didn’t get around to flavoring them, but next time I’ll try that.

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H says they remind her of those little candy drops affixed to paper strips. She’s right. I like those.

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So, here, for your enjoyment, are mini meringue buttons. Color them to suit the occasion. We’ve colored ours SPRING!

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Take a look at what the rest of the Let’s Lunch crew came up with this month! And if you want to join in the fun for the May challenge (“a dish that bridges two cuisines”), just follow the #letslunch tag in Twitter. We’d love to have lunch with you!

Scrambled Eggs and Tomatoes ~ from Grace at HapaMama
Fried Eggs and Omelets, Wok-style ~ from Eleanor at WokStar
Egg and Onions ~ from Lisa at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Biscuit Crust Breakfast Pizza ~ from In foodie fashion
Leek, ham, and percorino souffles ~ from Charissa at Zest Bakery
Homemade Cadbury Eggs ~ from Linda at Free Range Cookies
Beet dye and pink deviled eggs ~ from Denise at Chez Us
Eggs in a hole ~ From Emma at Dreaming of pots and pans
The Perfect Sandwich ~ from Felicia at burnt-out baker
Kimchi deviled eggs ~ from Joe at Joe Yonan
Molecular gastronomy “eggs”
~ from Karen at GeoFooding
Singapore-style Chai Poh scramble ~ from Cheryl at A Tiger in the Kitchen
Taiwanese tomato eggs ~ from Linda at spicebox travels
Old-fashioned boiled dressing & chicken salad ~ from Lucy at A Cook and Her Books
Bombay (spicy French) toasts ~ from Rashda at Hot Curries & Cold Beer
Son-in-law eggs ~ from Nancy at Nancie McDermott
Egg chaud froid ~ from Vivian at Vivan Pei

Mini Meringue Buttons

Yield: About a 100 buttons (give or take)

Ingredients

  • 4 egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter (this is optional; I don’t usually make meringues with this, but I tried it this time; maybe that was my problem?)
  • 1 cup superfine sugar (some people prefer to use a mixture of granulated and powdered sugar; follow your preference)
  • Food coloring (this is the kind I use)

Method

  1. Position three oven racks so they are evenly spaced, then preheat the oven to 225ºF.
  2. Line three half sheet pans with parchment paper (some people use foil lightly sprayed with oil).
  3. Beat the egg whites in a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a hand mixer (use the whisk attachment for either type of mixer) on low until the eggs are frothy.
  4. Add the cream of tarter (if using).
  5. With the mixer at medium-high speed, beat the egg whites until they reach the soft peak stage.
  6. While beating, very gradually add the sugar so that it blends in and dissolves completely.
  7. Beat until the stiff peak stage and the meringue is shiny.
  8. Divide the meringue into separate bowls, one for each color you plan to make.
  9. Add several drops of food coloring to each bowl, and mix well, either with a hand whisk or the hand mixer.
  10. Scrape the contents of one bowl into a small ziplock bag, seal the bag, then snip the corner off, and pipe small dots onto a prepared pan.
  11. Repeat with the other colors, using a fresh bag for each color to keep the colors separate.
  12. Bake the meringues for 45 minutes.
  13. After 45 minutes, turn the oven off and allow the meringues to finish in the oven for another hour.
  14. Remove from the oven to cool on the parchment paper.
  15. When the meringues are cool, slide a thin metal spatula under each to remove them from the parchment.
  16. You can store meringues for a couple of days in a cool, dark place (they hate humidity). A tightly sealed container in the refrigerator works well.