Florentines are thin, lacy cookies, typically made with oats and/or sliced almonds and sandwiched with chocolate filling that hardens and holds the cookies together. We made them at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and I remember thinking they were a total pain to make because they required precise timing and handling. You need to make them as thin as you can, they have a tendency to stick so it's best to bake them on silpats or parchment paper and, if you want a professional look to them, you need to cut them out with round cookie cutters after they come out of the oven. Only your timing has to be impeccable because if you wait too long and they have time to cool enough to crisp up, they'll break when you try cutting them into cookie cutter rounds. And even if you cut them out while they're hot enough to be malleable, they can also stick to your cookie cutter at the edges and tear apart. Yup, total pain.
But, like all things that require effort, a well-made florentine is worth it. They're crisp and tasty, sandwiched with chocolate – yum.
Fortunately, this recipe wasn't as difficult or as high maintenance as the CIA one. It uses oats and no sliced almonds. I also wasn't going for the perfect look so I shaped the cookies into approximately round shapes and didn't bother trying to cut them into perfect rounds. Usually when I make something for the first time, I try to follow the recipe to the letter and make my adjustments later. For this one though, I couldn't bring myself to take out the cookies after only 7 minutes as the recipe calls for as the cookies still looked pale and anemic. I'm used to florentines having some healthy brown color to them so I baked them until at least the edges were brown even though the middles still looked a little wet. For the filling, I had some milk chocolate fondue chips so I melted those instead of regular chocolate chips and they worked just fine. Don't heat the chocolate too much though or else it'll be too liquidy and could drip out of the "lace" of the cookie and make a mess.
I have to say I really like these cookies. After I baked the first sheet pan, I got bolder and left the cookies in longer until I liked how brown they were, which meant baking them closer to 15 minutes than 10 minutes. Once the cookies cooled and were sandwiched, they were deliciously crisp. The first sheet pan I baked were a bit soft. Still tasted good but didn't have the crisp texture I like from a good florentine. Because they're sandwiched together, these make good care package cookies as they're not likely to break or dry out during the mailing time. Don't overbake them too much though as even though they look better browned, you don't want them to get too hard when you have to bite both halves of the sandwich cookie.
Milk chocolate florentines (lacy oatmeal cookies)
From "Cookies" by Natalie Haughton
2/3 cup butter
2 cups quick oats, uncooked
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
One 11-1/2-ounce package (2 cups) milk chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat.
Stir in oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla extract and salt; mix well. Drop by level teaspoonfuls, about 3 inches apart, onto foil-lined cookie sheets (I line with parchment paper).
Spread thin with rubber spatula. Bake for 5-7 minutes (or longer, 10-15 minutes until the edges are brown and middles are no longer wet). Cool completely on wire racks. Peel foil away from cookies.
Melt the milk chocolate chips over hot (not boiling) water; stir until smooth.
Spread chocolate on flat side of half the cookies. Top with remaining cookies.
Carol Ramos blogs at The Pastry Chef's Baking.
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