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.
~ 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.
~ 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.
~ 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.
~ 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:
- Make the candied orange peels (you can skip this step if you already have the orange peels or are buying them).
- Make the syrup, almond, fruit, and flour mixture. Then bake the cookies.
- 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 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.
From Paris Boulangerie-Pâtisserie, by Linda Dannenberg (Gramercy Books, 1994)
Yield: 24 cookies
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
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).
- 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.
- 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.
- Stir in the toasted almonds and chopped fruit, then stir in the flour until blended.
- 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).
- When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 425ºF (220ºC).
- 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.)
- 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).
- 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.
- If you have any unbaked mixture left, repeat the well-filling and cookie-baking process until all the mixture is used.
- 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.
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…)