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…)

Garlic Soup and Walnut Bread

Garlic Soup

There are many — oh so many — benefits to working from home, but one serious drawback is that there’s no one to talk to. Sure, there’s the dog, but he only ever wants to talk about one thing:

Are we going for a walk? When are we going for a walk? Remember that walk yesterday? Yeah, that was a great one. But not as great as today’s walk is gonna be. Speaking of which, are we going for a walk?

He’s a darling dog, but the conversation gets a bit stale.

Then there are the cats:

Who are you, and what are you doing in my house?

And the goats:

Feeeeed us! Looooove us! Scraaaatch us behind the ears.

I enjoy that conversation. To a point.

Sometimes, though, it’s rather nice to communicate with human beings, especially human beings who have a sense of humor, like to read good books, enjoy cooking and baking new things, and have a serious relationship with garlic.

I feel lucky to know — virtually — two such beings: Kelly (at Something Shiny) and Daniel (at Ährelich Gesagt). Kelly and Daniel are fellow Bread Baker’s Apprentice challengers, bloggers, and people I’ve just generally enjoyed getting to know via our mutual friend, the Internet.

I don’t remember how the love-of-garlic conversation started between Kelly and Daniel, but at some point I joined in and mentioned that I had a bit of a garlic problem myself (remember the year I planted our entire garden with garlic? Yeah, that kind of problem…).

Garlic Soup - Star of the show

And then Daniel mentioned this garlic soup that he’d been wanting to make for ages. And the next thing you know, all three of us are signed on to make the soup, plus — because we all love to bake bread — the accompanying walnut bread, and then write about it on our blogs.

So here we are.

And let me tell you, if you love garlic, you must make this soup, because it’s beautiful and mellow and full of garlic goodness. You can eat it warm. You can eat it cold. You can probably ladle it on fish as a delicate sauce. You can add vegetables. You will want to eat it when you have a head cold. If you love garlic, you may even want to bathe in it. (Of course, then maybe no one else will want to get near you for awhile, but I tell you it will be worth the sacrifice.)

Garlic Soup - Garlic and herbs added to water

The process of making the soup is fairly straightforward, as long as you take some real care at the end of the recipe to be patient and work slowly to incorporate the egg/cheese/oil mixture into the broth. You can read the full recipe on the fabulous 101 Cookbooks blog, but here’s a brief overview of what you’ll be doing:

  1. Smash and then chop a dozen cloves of garlic.
  2. Add the garlic, plus a bay leaf, a couple sage leaves, about a teaspoon of fresh thyme, and a little salt to four cups of water.
  3. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 40 minutes.
  4. Remove the bay leaf and sage leaves.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together two egg yolks plus one egg, then slowly whisk 1/4 cup olive oil to create an emulsion.
  6. Whisk in 1.5 ounces of grated Parmesan cheese.
  7. SLOWLY whisk about a cup of the garlic broth into the egg mixture.
  8. Then SLOWLY whisk the egg mixture into the rest of the broth, over low heat, until the soup thickens.

Where I wrote “SLOWLY” above, I mean it. The recipe is very simple to make, but the one tricky part is making sure that you don’t curdle the eggs by cooking them too quickly with the hot broth. If you add the broth to the egg mixture in a very slow stream, whisking continuously, and then do the same when you add the egg mixture to the rest of the broth, you’ll be fine. Also, be conservative in the final cooking stage. It only takes a few minutes, so there’s no need to hurry it along. Start with a very low flame and then gradually raise it to medium-low and keep on whisking. It will thicken, and when it gets to a smooth, silky, non-watery consistency, take it off the heat, immediately.

Did I mention that I love this soup? Because I do. And that sort of surprised me because I really don’t like eggs. I mean, I love eggs as objects and what they do in baking, but I can’t stand the taste of egg, and I was a bit worried that this soup would taste like egg soup. It doesn’t. It tastes like full-flavored, smooth garlic, without a single bitter edge.

Walnut Bread - Walnut halves

I see I’ve rambled on quite a bit about the soup without discussing the bread very much. Although the three of us agreed on using the same soup recipe, we were left to our own devices to find a walnut bread recipe. I had a hankering for a garlic ficelle that our local bakery makes, but I couldn’t find a recipe, so I went in search of a walnut baguette instead. I didn’t really find one of those either, but I did land on this Apple Walnut Fondue Bread recipe at the King Arthur Flour web site (which, coincidentally, Kelly did, too!). I omitted the apples, added a few more walnuts than the recipe called for, and used some whole wheat flour in the poolish to give the bread a bit of extra heartiness.

Walnut Bread - Poolish

During kneading, I also added about a 1/4 cup more water than the recipe called for because the dough seemed drier than I wanted. I think I could have added even more water, but the resulting loaf turned out moist and full of nutty flavor. It’s a simple bread to make, requiring you to mix a simple poolish of yeast, water, and flour the night before baking; the next day, all you have to do is chop and toast the walnuts, add the rest of the ingredients to the poolish (flour, salt, yeast), knead it all together, let rise for 90 minutes, shape, proof for an hour, then bake. I followed Mr. Reinhart’s hearth baking method because I’m used to doing bread that way, but the recipe doesn’t require it.

Walnut Bread

The soup recipe calls for tearing up some of the walnut bread and putting it in the bottom of the bowl before pouring in the soup (which Michael did). Anyone who knows me knows that one of the things I truly loathe is wet bread, so I skipped that. I did, however, dunk a piece of bread in the soup just to see. They tasted mighty fine together.

Daniel and Kelly, thank you so much for being out there, for being amazing cooks, and for being garlic fiends. I’m so glad to know you!

We’ve a storm brewing here and the lights just blinked off and on a few times, so I’ll wrap things up here in hopes of posting before we lose power.

When you have a chance, hop on over to Kelly and Daniel’s blogs to see their renditions of garlic soup and walnut bread. I’m positive you won’t be disappointed.