Tag Archives: Christmas Cookies

{ Italian Florentine Cookies }

Florentine

Last week I blogged my recipe for Italian seven-layer cookies, and this week I am sharing my recipe for another classic Italian Christmas cookie: Almond Florentines. Also known as lace cookies, Florentines are an extremely delicate, paper-thin cookie made of macerated almonds and orange zest. They are crunchy and sweet, and with the chocolate drizzle on top–optional in this recipe, but a must for me!–they are absolutely decadent.

I like to make these for the holidays because other people so often gravitate towards making softer dough cookies like sugar cookies, spritz cookies, and snickerdoodles. Baking something with a little crunch factor helps to set you apart from the other women at the neighborhood cookie exchange!

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 3/4 cups sliced, blanched almonds (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

{ To Make the Italian Florentine Cookies }

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely chopped, but not pasty. Stir together the nuts, flour, orange zest, and salt in a large mixing 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 mixture into almond mixture and stir just to combine. Set aside until cool enough to handle, approx. 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 (and trust me, they do!!!).

Bake 1 pan at a time, until the cookies are thin and an even golden brown color throughout, rotating pans halfway through baking time, about 10 to 11 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve.

{ MUST HAVE  Chocolate Topping Drizzle }

Set up a classic double broiler system by putting the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Then bring a saucepan filled with 1 inch or so of water to a very low simmer; set the bowl of chocolate over the saucepan so that it is just above, but not touching, the water. Stir the chocolate occasionally until melted and smooth.

Chocolate in a double boiler

Drizzle melted chocolate over Florentines as desired. Set aside at room temperature until chocolate is set.

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**Store baked cookies carefully, separated by parchment or waxed paper, in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. Florentines are best stored separated from moist cookies and cakes.

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{ Italian Seven Layer Cookies }

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I come from a long lineage of family bakers. Cream and sugar are literally coded in my DNA.

And when I was growing up, the holidays signified one thing: cookie season! I would come home from school and my mom would have magazine clippings for cookie recipes that she wanted to try out at one of her infamous cookie exchanges. Given that it was not warm enough to play outside, she would encourage my sister and I to help her sift the flour, roll out the dough, and dip/glaze/sprinkle the tops of cookies in an effort to keep us from turning on the television (or the ‘boob-tube’ as it was referred to in my house!). Of course, we were always more more than happy to oblige!

We would make dozens of spritz cookies, sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, chocolate chip cookies, pecan tassies, mixed nut turtles, and traditional Hungarian kiffles. But the one cookie we never made, was ironically the one that was my favorite–the Italian seven layer cookie.

Whenever I would spot these in a party tray assortment, I would pick them out, stuff them in a napkin, and then scurry away to eat them by my lonesome. I was–and still am–an Italian cookie fein and hoarder.

This year, I decided to make my own seven layer cookies using the recipe printed in Gourmet, December 2005, and since them endorsed by The Smitten Kitchen food blog. I will admit that they were quite laborious and involved to make, but since they can be frozen in large blocks, I will have them to enjoy/gift over the next few months (or weeks, depending on my level of self-control!).

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{ Ingredients }

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 (8 oz) can of almond paste
  • 2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 25 drops red food coloring
  • 25 drops green food coloring
  • 1 (12 oz) jar of apricot preserves, heated and strained
  • 7 oz of good-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), roughly chopped

{ To Make Italian 7-layer Cookies }

Place oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan and line bottom with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two of the ends, then butter paper.

Beat egg whites in mixer fitted with whisk attachment at medium-high speed until they just hold stiff peaks. Add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating at high speed until whites hold stiff, slightly glossy peaks. Transfer to another bowl.

Switch to paddle attachment, then beat together almond paste and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks and almond extract and beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add flour and salt and mix until just combined.

Fold half of egg white mixture into almond mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter among 3 bowls. Stir red food coloring into one and green food coloring into another, leaving the third batch plain. Set the white batter aside. Cover the green batter with plastic wrap and chill in fridge.  Pour the red batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with offset spatula (layer will be about 1/4 inch thick).

Bake red layer 8 to 10 minutes, until just set. (It is important to undercook. They’ll look like they’re not done, but a tester does come out clean.)

Using the paper overhang, transfer the layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean pan, then line with parchment or wax paper and butter paper in same manner as above. Bake white layer in prepared pan until just set. As white layer bakes, bring green batter to room temperature. Transfer white layer to a rack. Prepare pan as above, then bake green layer in same manner as before. Transfer to a rack to cool (see note #1).

When all layers are cool, invert green layer onto a parchment or wax-paper-lined baking sheet. Discard paper from layer and spread half of the apricot preserves on top. Invert white layer on top of green layer, discarding paper. Spread with remaining apricot preserves. Finally, invert the red layer on top of white layer and discard wax or parchment paper (see note #2).

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Cover entire “layer-cake” with plastic wrap and weight down with a large baking pan (I stacked cook books on mine for extra weight!). Chill for at least 8 hours. BE PATIENT!

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Remove weight and plastic wrap. Bring layers to room temperature. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Keep chocolate over the hot water.

Trim edges of assembled layers with a long serrated knife so they are clean lines. Quickly spread half of chocolate in a thin layer on top of cake. Chill, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and place another baking sheet on top, then invert cake onto sheet and remove paper. Quickly spread with remaining chocolate. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Cut lengthwise into desired number of strips, depending on the size and number of cookies that you want to yield. I cut mine into 10 I believe.   Cut strips crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide cookies  (see note #3).

**Do ahead: Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks. They’ll keep even longer in the freezer.

Three important notes:

Note #1Don’t stack the cakes during the cooling process: Not because they crush each other (they won’t) or because they’ll stick (they don’t), but because that paper liner is greased on both sides from baking and the chocolate shell won’t quite stick right to exterior of the red layer because of the grease accidentally left on it.

Note #2Be careful dividing your jam: If there is too much jam between one of the layers, it will ooze out when you cut the cake with a serrated knife. Sadly, the cookie will fall apart.

Note #3They’re easier to cut when frozen: Nevertheless, they tasted amazingly and I was all ready to do a victory lap around my wee kitchen counter, however, when I got to cutting them up and then it all went south. People, these were trying to cut. The problem lies within the differing textures of the layers — the top hard chocolate shell more benefits from a sharp serrated knife (a regular, even very sharp knife will crack the edges when you press down on it), the same serrated knife that gets gummed with jam and tries to pull the soft cake layers in between apart. It was exasperating. It didn’t go well. I packed up some for a party and stuffed the rest in the freezer, only to discover the next day that these cut fantastically when frozen. Seriously. Trust me. I have the gummy floor and gray hairs to prove it.

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{ The 12 Desserts of Christmas }

Foodies keep tabs on other foodies–especially blogging foodies! I must admit–with some embarrassment–that I spend a great deal of my day looking at food related tweets, facebook posts, RSS feeds, photos, and last but not least, blog posts (the I-pad has only made my food addiction more accessible!). I want to know what people are eating, and where people are eating.

For this Christmas, I have decided to compile a list of my favorite holiday desserts, drawing on the delicious recipes of my blogging idols, celebrity chefs, and family members. And since I have a sizable amount of free time on my hands, I have decided to present them in song format as the 12 Desserts of Christmas! Just click on the image and it will redirect you to a page with the recipe!

Merry Christmas everyone!


                                                               On the first day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me
                                                                Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
 Christmas Rocky Road from Nigella Lawson
 
                                                             On the second day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
                                                   Fat Fluffy Snickerdoodles by How Sweet Eat Is
                                                              
                                                              On the third day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
                                                             Mixed Nut Turtle Cookie by Me

 

                                                               On the fourth day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
   Italian Rainbow Cookies by All-Recipes

 

                                                                On the fifth day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
                                                                       Pecan Tassies by Me

 

                                                              On the sixth day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                                         6 almond tortas
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
Almond Cake with Clementines by Two-Tarts

 

                                                              On the seventh day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                                    7  ricotta cheesecakes
                                                                         6 almond tortas
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
Ricotta Cheesecake with Blackberry Compote by Design Sponge

 

                                                              On the eighth day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                                  8 peppermint brownies
                                                                    7  ricotta cheesecakes
                                                                         6 almond tortas
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
Peppermint Infused Brownies by Jennifer Joyce

 

                                                              On the ninth day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                              9 macaroons with chocolate
                                                                  8 peppermint brownies
                                                                    7  ricotta cheesecakes
                                                                         6 almond tortas
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
 Coconut Macaroon with Chocolate by Fosters Market, NC

 

                                                              On the tenth day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                                      10 Hungarian kiffles
                                                              9 macaroons with chocolate
                                                                  8 peppermint brownies
                                                                    7  ricotta cheesecakes
                                                                         6 almond tortas
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
 Hungarian Kiffles with Lekvar from Great Grandmother’s Recipe

 

                                                            On the eleventh day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                                 11 chewy amaretti cookies
                                                                      10 Hungarian kiffles
                                                              9 macaroons with chocolate
                                                                  8 peppermint brownies
                                                                    7  ricotta cheesecakes
                                                                         6 almond tortas
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
 
 Chewy Amaretti Cookies from The Smitten Kitchen

 

                                                            On the twelfth day of christmas
                                                                  my true love baked for me 
                                                                 12 ginger bread men cookies
                                                                 11 chewy amaretti cookies
                                                                      10 Hungarian kiffles
                                                              9 macaroons with chocolate
                                                                  8 peppermint brownies
                                                                    7  ricotta cheesecakes
                                                                         6 almond tortas
                                                                          5 pecan tassies
                                                                        4 rainbow cookies
                                                                        3 mixed nut turtles
                                                                          2 snickerdoodles
                                                             and Nigella’s rocky road candy
Homemade Gingerbread Men with Royal Icing by The Food Network

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{ Hungarian Cream Cheese Cookies – Kiffles }

When I was growing up, the the holidays were marked by my Hungarian grandmother’s homemade cream cheese cookies (or Kiffles, as they are called in Hungarian). They would make their first appearance on Thanksgiving, and then she would continue to bake them until Christmas day. I couldn’t get enough of these little cookies, eating them by the plateful (and always getting caught because of the powdered sugar trail I would leave behind).

A kiffle is a moist and delicate pastry dough filled with lekvar (tart prune) or apricot preserves. This year, I have decided to continue the family cookie tradition here in Buenos Aires by making my great grandmother’s original recipe (yes, this is it). It is a simple recipe to make because only a few ingredients are required and no “special equipment” is needed!

NOTES: It is very important that you be patient and allow the ingredients to properly soften before beginning, or the dough will not come together right. Also, I suggest using King Arthur flour in this recipe because it is the best flour for baking. Since the dough is composed of so few ingredients, it is really important those those couple be of a very high quality. Splurge on the King Arthur if you can, but the recipe will work if you can’t find it (I couldn’t here in Argentina, and my cookies still came out fine).

{ Ingredients }

**Makes about 48 cookies

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 stick of margarin, softened
  • 1 (8 ounce) package of Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups King Arthur flour
  • Lekvar or apricot preserves
  • Confectioner’s sugar

{ To Make the Cookies } Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using and electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the softened butter, margarin, and cream cheese. Add the vanilla extract and continue to mix until light and fluffy.

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Add 3 cups of flour and mix with hands. The dough should be smooth but not sticky. If it is too sticky, continue to add flour until the right consistency is achieved. Divide the dough into four balls, cover in plastic wrap and put in freezer for 20 minutes.

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Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and then cut the dough into small squares. Place a dollop of lekvar or apricot preserves in the center of the square and then bring two of the opposing dough corners together atop it.

Arrange cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and allow to bake for 7-8 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve!

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