Posts tagged almonds

florentines

Until recently, I had never had a Florentine, those thin, crispy almond-and-orange cookies.  I had seen them in the odd cookie book or collection, but for some reason they had never interested me enough to make.  In the end, for this particular recipe iteration, I’m not totally sure it was worth the time.  Oh, I can certainly see where it would be – they tasted great, after all.  Still, the amount of time needed to turn out what ended up being a very fragile and uneven product, well, it makes me think that I might need to rethink the recipe is all.

The issue is that the dough was very crumbly and hard to roll, and although that problem was fixable – warming the dough in my palms before making balls – it was time-consuming.  Also, the cookies spread far more than I was expecting, so far in fact that they had numerous holes in their surface, and I think, this can’t be right.  So, I’m thinking perhaps the fact that I didn’t pulverize my almonds enough was probably the culprit.  Also, several recipes called for corn syrup, and I used golden syrup, because I like the taste better.

florentines (makes about 30 4-inch sandwich cookies)

Note: When my oven was at 350, my edges got far too brown, nearly burning before the center was cooked past the point of being chewy.  So I eventually had to turn my oven down to 200 in order to get the edges and the middle to cook even close to evenly.  Again, not sure if this is a problem with my dough, so, if you’ve pulverized the almonds thoroughly enough, start off at 350 with your first batch, and keep turning down the oven accordingly, if needed.

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz. blanched almonds, ground finely
  • 1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. flour
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. each heavy cream + golden syrup
  • 1 stick + 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 oz. chocolate (your choice of milk/semisweet/bittersweet)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together almonds, flour, orange zest, and salt.
  3. In a saucepan, bring sugar, cream, golden syrup, and butter up to a boil.  Stir frequently and cook until the sugar has been dissolved.  Leave on the stove another minute, then remove to stir in vanilla.  Add to almond mixture and mix until thoroughly combined.
  4. Let stand until cool enough to handle.
  5. Scoop teaspoon-sized amounts of dough and roll them into balls.  Place them about 4 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
  6. Bake about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after 5 minutes, and watching carefully for doneness.  They should be an even golden brown – too light in the middle, and they will be chewy and sticky rather than crispy.
  7. Cool on the baking sheet until you can safely move them to cooling racks, about 3-5 minutes.
  8. When all the cookies are out of the oven and cooling, chop your chocolate and melt it over gentle heat on the stovetop, or in the microwave in 30-second bursts.  Stir while letting it cool briefly, then spread over the bottom sides of half of the cookies.  Top with the remaining half to make thin cookie sandwiches.

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stollen (candied fruit + marzipan)

I’ve become sort of a resident snack-bringer for the community choir I sing in.  As those who know me already know, and those who find my blog soon find out, baking is a bit of an obsession for me.  I never tire of the fascination of turning endless combinations of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs into delicious things.  I never tire of the amazement of having something turn out just like things I’ve bought, and I usually attribute it to a good recipe rather to any indefinable magic coming from my fingertips.

So as you can imagine, new baking projects are constantly filling up my imagination, and I’ve been known to bake several different batches of items, when it’s just my husband and I in the house, and most people I know are on a diet.  On an impulse last year, I brought cookies to choir rehearsal, and they were snatched up pretty quickly, and it’s become kind of a tradition.  I don’t bring them every week, but it definitely gives me an outlet.

The first semester of our season ends tomorrow evening, and for the past few rehearsals, I’ve been getting increasingly seasonal.  Having an abundance of hand-candied citrus peel and hand-glaceed cherries, I sought out a recipe I could use them in, and settled on stollen, a German Christmastime bread with a center of marzipan.  I made some tweaks to the recipe I based it on, and it came out redolent of spices and rum.  I definitely recommend it!

stollen (makes 1 loaf)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. glaceed cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c. candied citrus peel, chopped
  • 1/2 c. currants
  • 1/4 c. spiced rum
  • 1 c. + 3 tbsp. whole-wheat flour
  • 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. wheat gluten (aka gluten flour)
  • rounded 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. each cardamom, cloves, and allspice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2/3 c. milk
  • 9 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 egg + 2 egg yolks
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 8 oz. marzipan, rolled into a cylinder
  • 1/2 c. melted butter
  • 1/2 c. confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

  1. Mix glaceed cherries, candied citrus peel, and currants in a bowl.  Pour spiced rum over and mix.  Let macerate for about 20-30 minutes before and during preparation of the bread dough, stirring occasionally.
  2. Pour some of the milk into a small bowl and heat until warm in the microwave.  Add yeast, with a pinch of sugar, and let stand a minute to be sure it foams.
  3. Combine 1 c. of the whole-wheat flour, the all-purpose flour, wheat gluten, sugar, salt, and spices.  Whisk briefly to combine.
  4. In a small saucepan, combine the remaining 3 tbsp. whole-wheat flour and remaining milk.  Bring to a boil and cook until thickened, only about a minute or so.  Let cool for a moment, and then add melted butter, eggs, lemon zest, and macerated fruit, along with all of the spiced rum.
  5. Add the yeast, and wet mixture to the dry ingredients, and mix until combined.
  6. Rest 15 minutes.
  7. Knead until the dough is smooth.
  8. Rest until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
  9. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 1/2″ thick.   Place the marzipan slightly off-center, and roll the dough over it, pinching the ends to seal.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350 and rest the dough until doubled in size, about an hour.
  11. Bake for 35 minutes or until a deep golden brown.
  12. When cool, brush with melted butter and dust generously with confectioners’ sugar.
  13. Wrap tightly and keep for several days to age the bread before slicing and serving.

candied citrus peel

Ingredients:

  • assorted citrus fruits (lime, lemon, orange, grapefruit, buddha’s hand, etc.)
  • sugar
  • water

Directions:

  1. With a paring knife or vegetable peeler, slice off long strips of citrus peel.  Be sure there is as little pith as possible.  Slice into thinner strips.
  2. Bring equal parts sugar and water to a boil, and add citrus peel strips.  Boil about 10-15 minutes, or until a piece of peel when removed is soft, chewy, and sweet.
  3. Drain syrup and keep for things like cocktails.  Spread peel strips in a single layer on racks to dry.
  4. Toss in granulated sugar, and store in an airtight container.

 

glaceed cherries

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. cherries (fresh or frozen), pitted
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. water

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.  Boil.
  2. Seriously, that’s it.
  3. Really.
  4. Okay, it might take about a half hour.  You want the cherries to be soft, cooked, and the syrup to be thicker and sticky, like syrup.  It will thicken up a lot once it has been refrigerated.  Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 

marzipan (makes about 2 lbs.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. blanched almonds
  • 1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

  1. Grind almonds to a fine powder in a food processor.  Pour out into a bowl and add confectioners’ sugar.  Whisk briefly to combine.
  2. Add egg whites and stir until it is evenly combined.  Knead once or twice to be sure it comes together.
  3. Roll or shape, or just eat it plain!

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