Christmas baking has began in my house, and what better way to start the season off than with these truly magical Florentine bars. Flavored with honey and orange, these caramel and almond topped shortbread bars are so delicious and so very hard to eat just one. Drizzle the bars with dark chocolate, and they rival any candy bar. These bars would make a beautiful addition to any cookie box or gift. and they ship really well too.
What are Florentines?
Florentine cookies, or lace cookies as they are sometimes called, are typically filled with nuts, dried and candied fruits. They are usually dipped in chocolate, and can be fickle to make in their traditional form. Traditional Florentines are delicate, chewy, sticky and absolutely amazing. One of my favorite cookies. To make my Florentines a bit easier to make, and ship to family, I put my Florentine mixture on a thin shortbread crust. Crisp, chewy and sticky and delicious.
How to make the shortbread crust
The shortbread crust is easily made in a food processor (yay for shortcuts!) and pressed into a lined 8x8 square pan. My trick for getting flat and even crust is to push it in with the flat side of a bench scraper. For you weirdos like me that must have a perfect looking, even crust, this method is super satisfying and makes for a super flat crust. The crust is baked until lightly golden and cooled.
How to make the caramel topping
While the crust cools, the sugar, corn syrup, and water are combined and heated until amber in color. Butter and honey are added followed by cream. orange zest, vanilla and salt. Toasted, sliced almonds and any other dried or candied druit are mixed into the caramel. Glacé cherries, dried cranberries, figs, or candied oranges are so good in these bars. You can also use any nut you like. Hazelnuts would be delicious. When the nuts and fruit are mixed in, the caramel is spread over the cooled crust. The bars are baked until bubbly.
When the bars are cooled, they are cut into servings. Whilst baking, the caramel seeps down the side and coats the sides shortbread. Sometimes I cut off the outside edges of the bars (and I eat them, obvs) so that you can see the crust and topping, especially if I'm gifting these. Drizzle the bars with melted dark chocolate. Once the chocolate sets, the bars can be wrapped in parchment and tied off with twine or a decorative. Stack the wrapped bars in cookie boxes and they make a gorgeous gift.
If you make these Florentine bars, let me know! Drop a comment or tag me on Instagram. I love seeing your creations.
For more holiday cookie recipes, check out these posts:
- 1 ¼ cups (210g) all purpose flour
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter, cold
- ¾ cup (150g) granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup (76ml) water
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- 6 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
- ¼ cup (84ml) honey
- ½ cup (114ml) heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 2 cups (172g) sliced almonds, toasted
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ⅓ cup (70g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350F and line an 8x8 pan with two pieces of parchment paper which extend over the sides to give you a ‘"handles" (this helps with removing the slice easily once it is set).
- In the bowl of a food processor, place the flour, sugar, and salt, and pulse to combine.
- Add the butter and pulse until the mixture begins to form clumps.
- Press the dough into the prepared pan, then level and smooth it with a bench press or measuring cup. Chill the crust for 10 minutes.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the shortbread is pale golden. Let cool completely.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup. Stir just to mix. Bring to a boil and heat until the mixture reaches 350F on a candy thermometer, or is amber in color.
- Remove from the heat, and whisk in the butter and the honey. Be careful as it will steam and bubble.
- Place back onto the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the heavy cream and the orange zest.
- Cook the mixture until it reaches 250F on a candy thermometer.
- Remove from the heat and add the almonds (and any other fruit or nuts you wish to add).
- Immediately pour the caramel mixture over the shortbread crust, using a spatula to smooth out the mixture.
- Bake the bars until the caramel begins to bubble, about 15-18 minutes.
- Let the bars cool completely. Run a knife or spatula around the pan between the parchment and pan to loosen any caramel that may have escaped.
- Remove the bars from the pan. Cut into bars or squares.
- Melt the chocolate in the microwave at 30 second increments until melted and smooth.
- Transfer the chocolate to a piping bag or a zip top bag and drizzle the bars with chocolate. You can also drizzle the chocolate with a fork.
- Let the chocolate firm up before serving. Serve at room temperature.