If I could only pick one holiday cookie to eat, it would definitely be this one. That's a bold statement, but it's true. It's the kind of cookie that challenges self-control to the max.
Florentines have always been one of my favorite cookies because, really, when there are crunchy almonds, orange, dried fruit and honey, it's bound to be amazing. There's so much flavor!
Traditional florentines are a little bit finicky to make (and especially to shape), so I thought, why not take all of the components and flavors of a florentine cookie, and layer them on buttery, rich shortbread? It turned out amazing. I think this is how Florentines are supposed to be.
This is my final recipe of the year working with Land O'Lakes, and it's very bittersweet! It has been so fun getting to know the blogger team at Land O'Lakes, people I now call friends. And I'm really grateful to have visited them in Minnesota earlier this year, for our trip to the Pioneer Woman's ranch in March, and for getting to create recipes with a fun product and great blogging friends.
It is only fitting that we end the year with a cookie, and a shortbread based cookie at that. Now for a little secret: Most of the time, I use unsalted butter for my baking recipes so that I can control the salt, but shortbread is an exception. For this recipe, I'm using salted butter, and the reason is that I prefer not to have big granules of salt distributed throughout shortbread. For things like chocolate chip cookies, it's great to have little pops of salt, but for a smooth, buttery shortbread experience, we're going to use salted butter so the seasoning is evenly distributed.
To get started, place two sticks of Land O Lakes® Salted Butter and a 1/2 cup of sugar in a bowl.
Cream them together until fluffy, then add vanilla extract.
Mix in flour until it is distributed (the dough will look crumbly, don't worry).
Despite its crumbly appearance, the dough should hold together when squished in your hand.
Press the shortbread into an 8x12 inch pan with your fingertips. (This recipe will also work in a 9x13 pan too.)
Bake the shortbread in a 350 degrees F oven, and in the meantime, start the topping.
Combine Land O Lakes® Salted Butter, sugar, heavy cream and honey in a saucepan.
Cook this mixture until it reaches 250 F.
Add dried cherries, almonds, and orange zest.
Stir it all together and immediately spread it evenly on top of the shortbread.
Bake for another 20 minutes until the cherries are plump.
Let the Florentine cookie bars cool completely, then cut into squares and serve. Enjoy!
Florentine Cookie Bars
For the shortbread base
· 1 cup Land O Lakes® Salted Butter (2 sticks)
· 1/2 cup sugar
· 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 2 ½ cups (12.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
For the topping
· 4 tablespoons Land O Lakes® Salted Butter
· 1/2 cup sugar
· 1/4 cup heavy cream
· 3 tablespoons honey
· 1 cup blanched sliced almonds
· 1 cup dried cherries*, chopped
· zest of 1 orange
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
To make the shortbread base, place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together by whipping on medium-high speed for 60 seconds. Add the vanilla extract and mix until combined. Add the flour to the bowl and mix at medium speed until the flour is distributed, about 60 seconds. The dough will look crumbly, but should hold together when pressed with your fingers.
Press the shortbread dough into a 8x12 inch pan with your fingertips, then bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown on the edges. (You can also use a 9x13 pan, with slightly less baking time.)
While the shortbread bakes, make the topping. In a large saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, heavy cream and honey. Place over medium-high heat and cook it until it reaches 250° F on a candy thermometer. While cooking, do not stir the mixture, because this could cause crystallization. Once the mixture has reached the proper temperature, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the almonds, cherries and orange zest. Immediately spread this mixture evenly over the top of the shortbread.
Bake for 20 minutes (or slightly less time for a larger pan) until the cherries are plump. Let the pan cool completely, then cut into bars and serve!
*I used sour cherries that were sweetened
Fifteen Spatulas has partnered with Land O'Lakes for an exclusive endorsement of Land O Lakes® Butter for the Kitchen Conversations blogger program. This blog post is sponsored by Land O'Lakes.