mmm florentine cookies…

December 27, 2011

For the holidays, I decided to look like a real gourmet and make a classic Italian cookie, The Florentine. With almonds, orange zest, butter, semi-sweet chocolate, and honey as the primary ingredients, this cookie has a complex and worldly taste.

I am a big fan of mixing chocolate and orange, so this particular recipe, which I borrowed from Giada De Laurentis, was just what I wanted. Plus, the peanut brittle-esque texture made it all the more interesting.

The reviews on the Food Network website seemed to unanimously agree that this cookie was absolutely delicious but rather finicky to bake in the oven, the issue being spreading and burning. I learned that it is best to scoop no more than one teaspoon of batter onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, and to bake no more than six cookies at once for about 9 to 10 minutes.

Of course all ovens are a bit different. It is also extremely important to watch these cookies closely as they bake because they can quickly go from almost perfect to burned in a matter of seconds.

Other than that, these cookies were easy to make and are so worth the little bit of trouble I had to endure, and I even doubled the recipe. They bake into a beautifully imperfect, delicate and lacy cookie that can be sandwiched to a similar sized cookie using semi-sweet chocolate. I chose to use Ghiardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips because when it comes to baking cookies for other people, I want to make them taste as good as they possibly can. I used my Wilton Chocolate Pro that I got with one of those 40% of coupons you get with your receipt from Michael’s, and it was one of the best investments I ever made. I use it all the time for things like cake balls and truffles. Some people just left out the chocolate in this recipe because they are just as tasty on their own. Everyone that tasted these cookies claimed they melted in their mouths, and that I had really outdone myself. They liked that they weren’t too heavy and that they awakened the taste buds in a unique way. You have to try them to understand what I mean. The next time you need to make cookies, you should definitely try this recipe. People will be impressed with you. They are pretty darn good if I do say so myself.

Florentine Cookies (courtesy of Giada De Laurentis)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sliced almonds, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir the almonds, flour and zest in a medium bowl. Stir the sugar, butter, cream, and honey in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the almond mixture. Cool the batter for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using 1 teaspoon of batter for each cookie, spoon 6 mounds of the batter onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly apart (the cookies will spread). Flatten the batter slightly with your finger.

Bake the cookies until they are lacy and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Gently slide the parchment paper with the cookies onto a rack and cool completely. Transfer the cookies to paper towels. Repeat with the remaining batter, lining the baking sheets with clean parchment for each batch. (The cookies can be made up to this point 2 months ahead. Cool completely, then store airtight in the freezer. Defrost before continuing.)

Stir the chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, or using a chocolate melting device, until the chocolate melts. Spread the melted chocolate over the bottom of 1 cookie. Top with a second cookie, bottom side down, pressing lightly to adhere. Repeat with the remaining cookies and chocolate.

Enjoy my friends!

Advertisements

This year’s Thanksgiving may very well have been the tastiest one yet. Although we decided to forgo the turkey, we compensated for its absence with plenty of old favorites and new ventures. The spread included pepper-encrusted beef tenderloin, pulled pork BBQ, potato casserole, gouda and gruyere mac ‘n’ cheese, fresh baked sour dough rolls, and an assortment of sweets -including my first attempt at bread pudding. I must admit that I was pretty happy with the finished product. I found the recipe on one of my favorite cooking blogs, Smitten Kitchen, which adapted the recipe from the October 2007 issue of Gourmet Magazine. I love pumpkin and I love bread pudding, so I was really excited to find this great seasonal combination. It was so easy to make that I wanted to pass it along to anyone with similar taste buds to my own. Even people that don’t particularly like pumpkin will probably like this as the flavor is not overwhelming at all. So here goes…

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

(borrowed from Smitten Kitchen)

1 1/2 cups whole milk (Or 1 cup heavy cream plus 1/2 cup whole milk)
3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
5 cups cubed (1-inch) day-old baguette or crusty bread
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle

While oven is preheating, toss the bread crumbs in the melted butter in an 8-inch square baking dish until they are pretty evenly coated. In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients and then pour evenly over buttered bread crumbs. Bake for 25-30 minutes until set. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. I used Breyer’s coffee ice cream and the flavors were great together.

In closing, here are a few of the happy moments from my family’s Thanksgiving…

my mom loves her thanksgiving decorations.

my dad, the BBQ master, and his smoker.

my mom is awesome.

my bro and sis.

i decided to eat off my old tray from when i was a wee one. portion control!

tis far better to give…

November 14, 2011

Words cannot describe how much I love Fall. I love the scent of woodsmoke, the clear starry nights, and of course the sight of foliage in its brilliant, graceful decline. Fall is also a great time of year to share the fruits of your labor with the people you love. With the holidays fast approaching, I’ve made it my goal this year to give in a more meaningful way. Among many other giving-related activities, I’ve decided to make all holiday gifts by hand. My first project of the season is Apple Pie Liqueur, a little something to awaken the taste buds and warm the heart. This liqueur embodies many things that I love about Fall -apples, cinnamon, and spirits. A lovely lady named Pat made this for me last Christmas. The recipe is so simple, I decided to give it a try. It’s so good! This liqueur makes a nice host/hostess gift for holiday parties, not to mention a great after dinner libation. Here is the recipe:

Apple Pie Liqueur

Ingredients:

1 Gallon Apple Juice

1 Gallon Apple Cider

8 Cinnamon Sticks

3 Cups Sugar

1/5 (750 mL) either Everclear (this can be hard to acquire) or Vodka with a high alcohol content

Directions:

In a large stock pot add apple juice, apple cider, cinnamon sticks, and sugar, then let it simmer covered for 1 hour. Enjoy the magical scent that will fill your kitchen. After an hour, remove the pot from the heat. Let it sit for about 20 more minutes then remove the cinnamon sticks (otherwise the cinnamon taste will be overwhelming). Let the liquid get completely cool before you add the alcohol, or else it will burn off a lot of the alcohol content. Once you add the alcohol and mix it thoroughly, you can use a funnel to pour the liqueur into glass vessels of your choice. Mason jars or even thrift store and flea market finds give it that cute home-made look. I added a cute piece of winter-esque fabric tied with baker’s twine to the top so it looks fresh from the farmer’s market. I also picked up some tiny mugs from Michael’s to include with the jar. They are the perfect size for sipping this winter time beverage. Enjoy!