These crispy yet chewy cookies can be made as a sandwich with a layer of chocolate to hold them together, chocolate dipped, or with a drizzle of chocolate. And they are wonderful without any chocolate at all.
When I was young my family sometimes went to a deli in San Francisco where, out of an assortment of scrumptious confections, I was allowed to pick out a cookie after our meal. Often, I chose a chocolate dipped florentine, a delicious almond cookie flavored with the essence of orange zest, one of my favorite combinations.
We are trying to keep our kitchen as simple as possible in order to ready ourselves for life on a boat with only a relatively small galley kitchen. So it was only after serious contemplation that we recently added a new gadget to our galley – a Miallegro stick blender. Our manual nut chopper has worked well for most duties, but would have been tough to chop almonds fine and consistent enough to meet the needs of this recipe. The stick blender is much smaller than our counter top blender and much more versatile. With 550 watts of power and a dedicated nut chopper attachment, I had finely ground, perfectly uniform coarse almond flour in less than one minute!
Even with the help of the chopper, this recipe was time consuming, but our cookie taste testers all agreed: the result was fabulous. The first step was blanching and skinning the almonds. After some trial and error, I figured out that the easiest way to skin the almonds was to boil them for two minutes and then pinch them out of their skins while they were soaking in cold water. After this step, the almonds had to dry. I let them sit out on a cookie sheet overnight. After the dough is made, it needs to sit for about a half an hour in order to cool enough to handle. I could only bake six cookies at a time, which also added to the time. Lastly, if you dip the cookies or drizzle them in chocolate, this has to be done after the cookies have cooled. Wait! You still can’t serve them until the chocolate sets up. This investment in time results in cookies that end up disappearing quickly! I don’t know which I like better… the chewy yet crunchy texture, or the combination of the orange, almond, and chocolate flavors.
Yields 24 six-inch cookies
- 1 3/4 cups blanched almonds, sliced (about 5 ounces)
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Chocolate topping (optional):
- 2 to 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
- Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely chopped, but not pasty. Stir together the nuts, flour, zest and salt in a large bowl.
- Put the sugar, cream, corn syrup and butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a rolling boil and sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, then pour this mixture into almond mixture and stir just to combine. Set aside until cool enough to handle, about 30 minutes.
- Scoop rounded teaspoons (for 3-inch cookies) or rounded tablespoons (for 6-inch cookies) of batter and roll into balls. Place on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 3 to 4 inches between each cookie since they spread as they bake.
- Bake 1 pan at a time, until the cookies are thin and an evenly golden brown in color, rotating pans halfway through baking time, about 10 to 11 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks. Repeat with remaining batter.
Optional chocolate topping
- Put the chocolate in a medium sized, heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with 1 inch of water to a very low simmer; set the bowl over the water, but not touching the water. Stir the chocolate occasionally until melted and smooth.
- For sandwiches, drop about 1/2 teaspoon chocolate onto the flat side of half of the cookies and press remaining halves onto the chocolate covered halves. Return to rack and let chocolate set.
- For chocolate decor, drizzle melted chocolate over florentines as desired. Set aside at room temperature until chocolate has set.
Recipe courtesy of http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/florentines-italy-recipe/index.html