CHOCOLATE-DIPPED FLORENTINE SHORTBREADS
If there’s one thing I especially look forward to around the holidays it’s my Mom’s epic output of Christmas cookies. From Mexican wedding cakes and raspberry-filled linzer cookies to chewy molasses spice cookies and our family favorite, Hello Dolly bars, no cookie style is left unrepresented….or so I thought. I wouldn’t even know this type of cookie existed if it wasn’t for Lauren being struck by inspiration while thumbing through the pages of an old Christmas issue of Food and Wine Magazine. I’m still not quite sure what it was, but something called out to her about these Chocolate-Dipped Florentine Shortbreads.
With a thin, buttery layer of shortbread and a chewy, orange and almond caramel topping, these cookies are simultaneously crispy and chewy — a truly outstanding textural contrast. If that wasn’t enough, each cookie is then partially dipped in a thick jacket of melted bittersweet chocolate, serving as the perfect foil for the candied orange rind and zest running throughout the sticky topping.
Having tried the festive cookie, I’m afraid I’ve been ruined. I just don’t know how any cookie platter will be complete this Christmas without the inclusion of these confectionery gems. Give them a try; you won’t be disappointed.
CHOCOLATE-DIPPED FLORENTINE SHORTBREADS
From Pierre Hermé, Food and Wine Magazine, December Issue, 2002
These aren’t the easiest cookies in the world to make, but they are by no means too difficult for the average baker. Be sure to follow each step carefully and pay attention to the temperature of your caramel sauce when making the topping. It is important to note that the shortbread dough will not look like traditional cookie dough in the slightest. Instead, be prepared to work with a very dry, floury mixture. It won’t look like it wants to hold together at first, but once pressed into the bottom of the prepared baking sheet and baked, the dough transforms into a crisp, buttery layer that is simply phenomenal. Finally, be certain to use bittersweet chocolate when it comes time to dip the shortbreads. Milk chocolate won’t provide the same compliment to the candied orange and counterbalance needed for the sweet, caramel topping.
For the Shortbread:
- 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice and chilled
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
For the Topping:
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 cup chestnut or wildflower honey
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
- 3 cups sliced, blanched almonds (3/4 pound)
- 2/3 cup finely diced candied orange rind (1/4 pound)
- 3/4 pound bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- Make the Pastry: Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter the bottom and sides of an 11-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet. Line the bottom with parchment paper, leaving about 1 inch overhanging at the short ends. Butter the parchment.
- In a food processor, pulse the diced butter with the sugar and the salt 6 times. Add the flour and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Spread the crumbs on the baking sheet and press them into a thin, even layer with floured hands. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Refrigerate for 10 minutes, or until firm. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack. Increase the oven temperature to 425°.
- Meanwhile Make the Topping: In a small saucepan, heat the cream with the orange zest over moderate heat just until bubbles appear around the edge, about 5 minutes. In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the sugar with the corn syrup and water and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Cook the syrup over moderately high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until a medium amber caramel forms, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the honey, the infused cream and the butter and stir until the butter melts. Cook the caramel topping over moderately high heat until a candy thermometer registers 255°, about 4 minutes. Stir in the almonds and candied orange rind and immediately spread the caramel over the pastry with a wooden spoon.
- Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake the pastry for 10 minutes, or until the top is bubbling. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes.
- Run a knife around the edge of the baking sheet to loosen the pastry and slide the parchment paper onto a work surface. Using a sharp, heavy knife, cut the pastry into 2 1/2-inch-by-3-inch rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally in half.
- Line 2 large baking sheets with wax paper. Melt two-thirds of the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave for about a minute or a double-boiler. Add the remaining chocolate and stir until completely melted. Dip 1 corner of each cookie into the chocolate and transfer it to the prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate until the chocolate is just set, about 5 minutes.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 2 months.
Makes about 2 dozen large cookies, or 4 dozen small