Updated: Apr 16, 2020
The Good Taste Lama Florentine Cookies
Don’t hate on dried fruit, especially now that we’re nearing fruitcake season. Dried fruit was one of the key ingredients in my award-winning Florentine cookie recipe submitted to the Dallas Morning News’ 24thAnnual Holiday Cookie Contest. Initially, even I second-guessed the idea of making a dried fruit based cookie for the contest, because sweets with dried fruit can be polarizing, but I took it as a challenge (it was also the first cooking contest the Good Taste Lama competes in) and listened to my gut (and taste buds) and went for it. I’m happy to report that my Florentines placed second in their category! A win for the Good Taste Lama, and a win for the voiceless, normally unloved, dried fruit! My Florentines were also able to convert anti-fruitcake die-hards like my son and husband. Come to think of it, how can you not like a cookie, whose name suggests it’s from Florence, Italy, when in actuality it probably hails from France? Also, just when you think that all you’re going to feast on, is a sea of candid fruit, you discover that my Florentines offer plenty of crunchy golden almonds laced with a hint of honey followed by an unctuous base of shortbread. Just like fruitcake, and if you can resist eating them all, they keep well, if properly stored in the fridge, so definitely an excellent ‘make ahead dessert.’
THE GOOD TASTE LAMA FLORENTINE
For the crust
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1⁄4 cup corn oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the filling
1 stick unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons honey
1 1⁄2 cup blanched, slivered almonds
1 cup dried fruit
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup flour
Position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Grease 2 10.5 inch cake trays and cover with parchment paper.
For the crust: Whisk together the flour and salt in a small bowl to aerate and combine.
Place the butter and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on medium- high speed for about 2 minutes, until creamy, then add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes, until very light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, then gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until blended to form a soft dough, stopping to scrape down the bowl once or twice.
Transfer the dough to the pan and pat it into a flat, even layer on the bottom. Bake for 20 minutes, until just beginning to turn very light golden brown along the edges; it should be dry to the touch and not baked through.
While the crust bakes, make the filling: Combine the butter, sugar, cream and honey in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Attach a candy thermometer to the saucepan; once the butter has melted, stir to incorporate, then increase the heat to medium-high and cook to a temperature of 235 degrees. This will take no more than 10 minutes. The mixture will have thickened and the surface will be covered with large bubbles. Remove from the heat and add the nuts, fruits and flour, stirring until well combined.
Pour the filling over the partially baked crust; return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the filling is bubbling and has turned light golden all over. The color might be darker around the edges. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.