Vanilla-Orange-Chocolate-Nut-Filling Sandwich Cookie

Sugary, light vanilla cookies pizzazzed up with orange zest sandwich creamy almond-chocolate filling.

Still have to come up with a better name for these . Maybe you could help. The idea for this creation started with the chocolate-almond spread I made a couple of days ago. I thought it would make a delicious filling in a sandwich cookie, and since the spread is chocolate, I wanted the cookie to be vanilla. I found a basic sugar cookie recipe, omitted the chocolate the recipe called for and added vanilla and orange zest. “Perfect!” I thought. A vanilla cookie with orange zest sandwiching chocolate almond spread. How about the name VOCNFS Cookie to borrow from the texting world? Uh… no. I’m open to suggestions!

Vanilla Orange Sandwich Cookie

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • almond-chocolate spread

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add zest. Mix. Add butter. Mix. Then add egg and vanilla. Continue mixing until dough comes together.
  3. Take rounded teaspoons of batter. Roll into a ball and flatten for uniform cookies. Place approximately two inches apart on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 9 minutes, until cookies are slightly cracked on the top.
  4. Remove from oven and set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
  5. To assemble the sandwiches: take one cookie and smear chocolate-nut spread evenly on the bottom of the cookie (because the bottom side will be flat. You want the cracked tops of the cookie to be on the outside.) Take a matching cookie and gently press flat side into the chocolate spread. Voila! You have a sandwich cookie. Continue with remainder of cookies.

We took these cookies to our friends’ house. They gave these cookies high marks on the would-you-buy-these-in-a fancy-cookie-shoppe test!

Florentines – Chocolate or Plain?

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.

Florentine Cookies

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
Directions
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  1. 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

A Merry Christmas with Linzer Cookies

Happy Holidays!

Tired of cookies yet? We’re not. I’m still baking through memories from my youth. Linzer cookies remind me of visits to my family in Switzerland. My aunt would take me to Swiss bakeries with shelves full of tasty choices. Linzer was a regular choice.

I knew that sandwich-type cookies were going to be more effort than others that I’ve made, and I was right. My kitchen has limited gadgetry which makes for a really hands-on experience. I followed this recipe from the Williams-Sonoma Baking Book. The first step is toasting the almonds and then chopping them fine. I did this with a hand-powered nut chopper. I probably should have prepared this before my Insanity workout; it seemed to take a really long time to chop with wobbly muscles. Zesting an orange means carefully peeling off the outside layer and mincing the peel with a large sharp kitchen knife. When the chilled dough came out of the fridge, it felt too crumbly. I worked with it anyway, following the advice to roll the dough between sheets of waxed paper. The whole process took several hours. All in in, the cookies turned out wonderfully. Jack’s review, “The finest tea cookie I’ve ever tasted.” Today, they will go to a Christmas cookie exchange. Hopefully the recipients will enjoy them, too.

Gather some elves (preferably the kind that make cookies), put on some good music, and here’s the recipe:

Linzer Cookies (courtesy of The Wiliams-Sonoma Baking Book p. 12)

Makes about 1 dozen cookies.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange zest
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Toast almonds by spreading them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes. In a food processor, finely grind the cooled toasted almonds using short pulses. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, cream the butter until fluffy and pale yellow. Add the granulated sugar and continue beating until combined. Add the egg yolk, orange zest, vanilla, an almond extract and beat on low speed until well blended.

Sift flour, cinnamon, and salt together into another bowl. Add the ground almonds and stir to blend. Add the flour-nut mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low speed or stir with a wooden spoon until blended. The dough should be soft. Turn the dough out of the bowl, divide into 4 equal portions, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets or line them with parchment (baking) paper. Remove 1 portion of the dough at a time from the refrigerator, place between 2 sheets of waxed paper, and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Using a cookie cutter about 2 1/2 inches in diameter, cut out the cookies. Cut a hole in the center of half of the cookies with a 1 1/4 inch cutter. Repeat to roll out remaining dough portions, then reroll the dough scraps as needed to make 24 cutouts in all, cutting holes in half of them. If the dough becomes sticky, wrap it and chill in the freezer for about 10 minutes before rolling out.

Using a thin spatula, carefully transfer the cookies to the prepared pans, Bake until firm to the touch, about 12 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks. Loosen the cookies from the pans with the spatula, but leave in place on the pans until cooled.

To assemble, spread the solid cookies with about 1 teaspoon of the raspberry jam to within about 1/4 inch of the edges. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the cookies with the center cut-out (the cookies that go on top) with confections’ sugar. Top the solid cookies with the cutout cookies.

Enjoy these cookies with a steaming cup of hot tea.