Friday, December 7, 2012

Twelve Cookies of Christmas #4: Pecan-Cocoa Nib Florentines

These were probably the most labour-intensive cookies on my list this year. What had originally started out to be (what I thought would be) an easy project turned into a three-hour-plus affair that took me well into the wee hours of the morning.

Pecan-Cocoa Nib Florentines

It's not that the recipe itself is complicated—the dough comes together in a matter of minutes. What takes so long is the actual baking time. Because florentines, like any tuile cookie, spread while baking, there are only so many cookies you can fit on one pan. Then you have to let them cool properly before you can even move them off the pan without deforming then. And being the neurotic baker that I am, I also had to use a circular cookie cutter to "cut off" the raggety edges to get as close to a perfect circular cookie as possible. All those different steps and waiting adds up. (I should also add that the recipe made a LOT more dough than I thought it would on paper, which meant that it felt like the never ending bowl of cookie dough).

However, if you set aside the time in an afternoon or early evening, these Pecan-Cocoa Nib Florentines are definitely worth it. They're not the cheapest cookies to make, but they will fancy up your cookie tins and plates this holiday with their luxury factor.

Because there's a good amount of cocoa and espresso in the florentines, these cookies aren't very sweet, which is a nice change from the constant sugar-rush we're all experiencing at the holidays. I like to drizzle these with some melted dark chocolate, but for some added sweetness, you can use milk or white chocolate instead.

Pecan-Cocoa Nib Florentines

I love the texture of these cookies—the crunchy bits from the pecans and cocoa nibs, the crispy edges, and just barely chewy centre. The "oooooh" factor of these florentines make them perfect holiday gifts, and will impress your guests for sure at your next holiday party.

Follow along with my Twelve Cookies of Christmas.

Pecan-Cocoa Nib Florentines
Adapted from Brave Tart
Makes about 8 dozen

340 grams pecans
113 grams cocoa nibs
170 grams all-purpose flour
28 grams cocoa powder
227 grams butter
106 grams honey
284 grams sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
113 grams semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the pecans and cocoa nibs in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (but not ground—you want them to still retain small pieces to give the cookies some texture). Tossed the chopped pecans and nibs into a bowl. Mix in the flour and cocoa powder, and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and honey over medium-low heat. When the butter has completely melted, add the sugar, salt, and espresso powder. Stir and increase the heat to medium. Bring the mixture to a boil; stir occasionally to ensure the sugar dissolves completely. Once the mixture begins to boil, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Stir the butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until everything is incorporates and the dry ingredients has become moist. At this stage, the mixture will be pretty wet, but thick.

Use a tablespoon or soup spoon, measure out even, rounded portions of dough. Drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 3 inches between each cookie, as they will spread.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they have spread thinly and turned uniformly dark and lacy. Don't worry if some of the cookies have spread into each other; you can cut them free later.

Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on the pan for about a minute before trying to cut them out with a cookie cutter.

To cut the irregularly shaped cookies into clean rounds, you’ll need to use the largest round cookie cutter you have that does not exceed the size of the cookies (I used a 2 1/4-inch cutter). Stamp “perforations lines” onto each soft, semi-molten cookie.

Once the cookies have cooled completely, simply pick up each cookie and snap off the ragged edges. The excess will break away cleanly, leaving you with a perfectly round cookie. (Save the scrappy edges for yourself either in a ziplock bag or an airtight container. Delicious sprinkled over ice cream, or added to your breakfast granola, or on its own as "cookie cereal.")

If desired, melt the chocolate in a double boiler; cool for a few minutes before pouring into a piping bag with a plain tip or small ziplock bag, with one corner cut off. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the cookies. Allow the chocolate to set completely before placing the florentines in an airtight container. They will keep for up to 5 days.


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