Let’s be honest. I’m not Julia Child. I’m a baker, maybe on the borderline of pastry chef. I could be more of a Martha. But she’s no Julia Child. Which is perhaps why her recipe for chicken liver pate was an absolute disaster. I’m not talking about a kitchen explosion, a hot mess, or some catastrophic mishap — the pate was just bland. Not good. Meh.
Perhaps I remember pate tasting much better than it actually did. But then again, this was more than two years ago, when a Frenchman brought pate to my Westwood apartment for a graduation celebration. I do trust the French when it comes to food. After all, that same Frenchman lit crepes doused in rum on fire in my kitchen. Perhaps that pate was duck and not chicken, or perhaps it had a different array of spices. But lesson learned: I will never use this recipe again. It was… gross. And the worst part of all had nothing to do with the taste of it, or the fact that I’ll never get that hour of my life back. It was that, after all the effort, it didn’t even look pretty. It’s actually very ugly, and I am still very bitter that I man-handled bloody chicken livers for ten minutes in complete vain. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I love baking so much; even if it tastes like dirt, you can find some way to make it look pretty. And it usually tastes pretty good. I’m a huge fan of icing, which can make almost anything taste like heaven. Or chocolate. It’s pretty much heaven by itself.
This past weekend, my house threw our annual cookie “rager.” It’s our twenty-something yuppie version of a traditional cookie exchange, which involves massive amounts of cookies, sangria, and dancing. More than forty people were crammed into our little townhouse like dancing sardines. There was even couch dancing for the sake of space. It actually reminded me of one of my favorite movie scenes — the party scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Anyway, it was satisfying to see many of the people that I can hardly keep in touch with between classes and running — and, I recruited a few new running buddies. It was only appropriate to talk up fitness at a cookie rager as everyone plowed through pounds of cookies and booze.
These were my cookies — candied lemon florentines. My office benefitted from the leftovers this morning. It took all of twenty minutes for them to disappear from the coffee room.
WHAT YOU NEED:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup whipping or heavy cream
4 tablespoons sifted cake flour
1 cup finely chopped candied citrus peel
1 cup ground almond flour
1 cup sliced almonds
WHAT TO DO:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter.
Slowly stir in the sugar and the heavy cream over high heat, until the mixture boils.
Then, remove from heat and stir in the flour, citrus peel, almond flour, and almonds. Mix well.
Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and drop batter in round, 1-tablespoon measurements, leaving a few inches between each one. If you have silicone cupcake or florentine molds, that would work even better than the parchment paper — I’m just too poor to buy those right now! So parchment paper will have to do.
Place the cookies in the oven, and let them bake for 10-15 minutes. The time really depends on how crispy you would like your florentines. I, personally, prefer them light and on the chewy side. But the longer you leave them in, the crunchier and darker they will be.
The batter spreads into a delicate lace pattern, which can be lethal when painted in chocolate (and perhaps formed into sandwiches with multiple cookies and a ridiculous mess).
When removing the florentines from the oven, be sure to let the cookies sit for at least 15 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack, eat, and repeat.