During a recent trip to Madrid, Spain we dove head-first in to the wonder and chaos of the Mercado de San Miguel, an indoor pavilion with an open air feel that was packed with a dizzying array of tapas-style food vendors. The market was wall-to-wall people, and everyone was jockeying for a turn to place an order or for an open spot at a table. The vendors served everything from gourmet cheeses and olive assortments to amazing seafood spreads that included sea urcins, gulas (thin slices of fish intended to imitate the pricey angulas, which are baby eels) and barnacles.
The feeding frenzy also included a plethora of wine vendors and opportunities to sample famed cuts of Spanish ham, chorizos and salchichónes. Then there were the pastries, which inspired this post (I’m getting to that part, I promise). If you could resist stopping at a vendor boasting an arsenal of sweets that made Candyland look sparse, well, you have a lot more will power than I do. We settled on two thin-but tasty-looking cookies. One plain. The other covered in chocolate …
After much Googling I determined the mysterious Caracas Chocolates we devoured were similar to Florentines — a crisp, nutty, buttery cookie that hails from Italy (as so many tasty things do). So I was super excited to come across this recipe from Smitten Kitchen — and it’s holiday-inspired, eggnog twist qualifies them for this blog. Yay!
Although this page is all about cooking with booze, in my opinion, these treats stand on their own without the spiked filling. I may even like them better that way (gasp). So I suggest saving a few out of your batch to taste by themselves. In fact, in the not too distant future, I plan to make these again adding a little more flour (while Florentines are supposed to be thin, I felt that mine could benefit from a little more substance) and glazing them with chocolate (possibly the Baileys Ganache that made my Peanut Butter Brownies amazingly decadent).
Okay, enough of the back story. Let’s get you on your way to cooking — but if you ever find yourself in Madrid, make time for the Mercado de San Miguel and save room for dessert!
What You’ll Need: makes about 2.5 dozen
Pecan and Hazelnut Florentines
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6 tablespoons or 45 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup nuts (The original recipe called for pecans, but I used both pecans and hazelnuts — about 35 grams hazelnuts and 15 grams of pecan halves. I roasted them as well)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, cold is fine
2/3 cup (65, oops, sorry, it is 130 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream (We didn’t have any heavy cream on hand so I used milk)
1 tablespoon corn syrup, honey, or golden syrup (We had pecan syrup on hand so I used that)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, hard-boiled
4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups (300 grams) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons rum (I used Bacardi Golden.)
Make the Florentines:
For a quick video of the Florentine-making process, check out the Vine.
- Heat oven to 350°F.
- In a food processor, combine 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup of nuts, 1/4t cinnamon and 1/4t salt and pulse until the nuts are very finely chopped, about 1 minute. Turn the nut mixture out into a large bowl.
- In a small-medium saucepan set over high heat, combine the 1/2c butter, 2/3c sugar, 2T heavy cream and 1T syrup and bring it to a boil. Boil the mixture for one full minute, then turn off the heat and add the vanilla. Pour this caramel mixture over the nut mixture and stir to combine. Set aside for at least 30 minutes, until it has cooled. Mixture will firm up and seem more mushy than doughy — that’s okay.
- Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Scoop the dough into small balls using a 1 teaspoon measure (according to the Smitten Kitchen, the original recipe recommends a 1/2 teaspoon measure, which I may use when I try this recipe again. Also, in the photo below, I mistakenly used the 1T scoop — don’t do this. Your cookies will be huge! Stick to either the 1/2t or 1t scoop. Most of my cookies — with the 1t scoop — ended up about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. I would like them to be a little smaller and slightly thicker the next time around). Place the scoops about 3 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
- Bake until the cookies are thin and golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes. They will not crisp until they are cool, so don’t worry if they’re soft. *The next step is the most difficult.
- Wait for them to cool for 10-15 minutes.
- Blot off excess grease — use a thin metal spatula to carefully transfer the cookies to paper towels for blotting. After they’ve been blotted, transfer cookies to a cooling rack, though they should be pretty cool by now.
- Repeat the process with the remaining cookie dough.
Make the eggnog filling:
- Peel the four boiled eggs and separate the yolks from the whites. Save the whites for another use.
- Press the egg yolks through a fine-mesh strainer so that they become mashed and powdery. Place in a large bowl with 4T butter, 2 1/2c confectioners’ sugar (I might lessen this just a tad next time around), 1T milk, 1t vanilla, 3/4t nutmeg, 1/8t cloves and 1/8t salt.
- Beat together until smooth, then raise mixer speed and beat until mixture is thick and frosting-like, about three minutes. Stir in the 2T rum by hand (it doesn’t sound like much, but this small amount gives the filling a noticeable kick that I liked).
- Spread a dollop of eggnog filling on one cookie, then gently press a second one on top of it. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling.
- Place them in the fridge for 10 minutes before serving, to firm up the filling.
According to Smitten Kitchen:
- The dough and the icing can be made up to three days ahead of baking if stored in an air-tight container in refrigerator.
- The baked, unfilled florentines can be stored in a loosely covered container at room temperature for up to two days before being filled. At our house, however, these were so good they sat in a loosely-covered tubberware for about three days and were still as tasty (although slightly more chewy) as the first. They may last longer, but I doubt you’d be able to defend them for more than a few days.
- The original recipe says that once filled, the florentines need to be eaten immediately but the Smitten Kitchen says theirs stayed crisp a loosely covered container (not airtight) in the refrigerator for a couple days.