Pecan Florentines

Pecan FlorentinesIf you’ve never seen or heard of Florentine cookies, you’re probably not alone. I rarely see these ultra-crispy, nutty, chocolaty cookies in bakeries, but on the occasion that I do, I just have to have one.

Pecan FlorentinesMy love of Florentines began when I tried an almond version at Blue Bonnet Bakery in my hometown (they must have been out of Gingerbread Men that day 😉). I was intrigued by the non-traditional appearance of the cookie (let’s be real–I was mostly in it for the chocolate). After one bite, I knew I’d found a favorite.

Pecan FlorentinesFlash forward fifteen years and I’ve finally tried my hand at making them. And you know what? I wish I had made them sooner. I’m always so intimidated by lace cookies, but they’re actually some of the simplest to make. Exhibit A: Apple Cider Snaps.

Pecan FlorentinesHere’s what you need to know about Florentines: if you start now, you can have dough ready for the oven in ten minutes. That dough will bake in all of five minutes. And the finished cookies get filled and topped with dark chocolate. So…what are you waiting for?!

Pecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesMeasure out a cup of pecans and then pulse them in the food processor until they become a rubble. You could use almonds or walnuts if you prefer, but given a choice, I will always go for pecans. It’s a Texan thing, I suppose. I would like more things to taste like pecan pie, Florentines included. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Anyway…mix the pecan rubble with 1/2 cup of flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

Pecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesNext up, bring some butter, dark brown sugar, and Lyle’s Golden Syrup to a boil. Golden syrup is an invert sugar with a slight caramel flavor; I usually find it on the baking or international aisles (it’ll be with the British foods). If you can’t find golden syrup at your grocery store, light corn syrup works just fine.

Pecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesBack to the recipe…combine the wet and dry ingredients and voilà! Cookie dough. It will be thin and a little, uh, gloppy, but it will be cookie dough.

Pecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesDrop teaspoons of dough onto lined baking sheets and flatten them into circles. Bake them for 5 1/2-6 minutes, until lacy and turning golden at the edges. Keep an eye on ‘em and make sure to rotate the pans halfway through–since these cookies are mostly sugar, butter, and nuts, they can go from perfection to charcoal in seconds. I made six batches last week and you can see that I still had a few close calls. Rotate, rotate, rotate. It’s crucial to your Pecan Florentine success.

Pecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesPecan FlorentinesOnce all the cookies are baked and cooled, sandwich them together with dark chocolate. The melted chocolate may seep through some of the holes in the cookies. To mitigate this, I like to spread the chocolate onto one cookie, top it with a second cookie, and flip it over. That seems to contain any overflow.

Pecan FlorentinesAs a finishing touch, I like to drizzle a little more chocolate onto each Pecan Florentine. It’s entirely optional, but I think it’s pretty. After that, just let the chocolate set at room temperature (or if you’re impatient, throw them into the freezer for a few minutes).

(I’m impatient.)Pecan Florentines

Pecan Florentines
makes about 20 sandwich cookies

1 cup raw pecan halves
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup or light corn syrup
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Place racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats. Set aside.

Place pecan halves in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until they become a rubble. Transfer to a bowl and stir in flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.

Combine butter, golden syrup (or corn syrup), and dark brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and pour into the bowl with the pecan mixture. Fold together with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon.

Drop teaspoons of dough at least 3 inches apart on the prepared pans. Flatten the dough into circles. Bake 3 minutes. Rotate the pans top-to-bottom and front-to-back. Bake an additional 2-3 minutes (I do 2 1/2 minutes), until golden at the edges. Let cool on the pan five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Discard and replace parchment between batches.

Once all the cookies have been baked, chop the chocolate and place it in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Let cool five minutes.

Line a surface (or two baking sheets) with parchment. Place half the cookies underside-up on the parchment. Top each with about 1/2 teaspoon of melted chocolate. Spread it into a thin layer and top with another cookie. Carefully turn sandwich cookies over. Use a fork to drizzle remaining chocolate over the tops. Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until set.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Pecan Florentines

Maple-Roasted Pecan Butter

Maple-Roasted Pecan ButterI reorganized my kitchen last week. I should have done it months ago–my beloved mix-in cabinet was basically overflowing and the tiny bins I had for dried fruit, nuts, sugars, and chocolate just weren’t cutting it anymore. It had gotten to the point where I knew I had some of everything, but none of it was easy to access. After spending a cool $20 at Target, I’m happy to say that everything is organized and back in working order.

I knew I had pounds of dark chocolate and that I am set on light brown sugar for at least a month, but I didn’t expect to find two full pounds of pecans. It makes sense, being from Texas and all, but still. I live in a place where people generally prefer walnuts; I’d expect to have far more of those than anything else. So, what does one do when they have a glut of pecans? Well, first, make Carrot Cake Blondies. And then blitz the rest into this Maple-Roasted Pecan Butter.

Maple-Roasted Pecan ButterI love making nut butters. They come together in a matter of minutes and are far more delicious than their storebought counterparts…although I don’t think I’ve ever seen pecan butter for sale at a grocery store. Not in walnut country, anyway. This brings me to my next point: when you make nut butter at home, the possibilities are endless. Beyond peanut and almond butters, there’s homemade Nutella, pistachio butter, coconut-cashew butter. Heck, you can even make the best flavor combination in the world into a nut butter. <– seriously, make that.Maple-Roasted Pecan Butter

My Maple-Roasted Pecan Butter starts with roasting 12 ounces of pecans (about 3 cups of halves). Transfer the pecans to the bowl of a food processor and blitz until smooth. Resist the urge to eat it as-is (although you totally should). Add a tablespoon of maple syrup, a splash of vanilla, some cinnamon and nutmeg, and process again. The pecan butter will tighten up a bit and become nice and spreadable.

Maple-Roasted Pecan ButterOh, this stuff is good. It has a really pronounced roasted pecan flavor and the maple makes it slightly sweet. The vanilla and spices round out the flavor and make this nut butter pretty irresistible! Maple-Roasted Pecan Butter is great on toast, and would make a killer sandwich with a little raspberry jam. My favorite way though, is with a sprinkling of finely chopped dark chocolate.

Yep, chocolate for breakfast. Because I’m an adult.Maple-Roasted Pecan Butter

Maple-Roasted Pecan Butter
makes about 1 1/2 cups

3 cups pecan halves
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350F. Spread pecan halves in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Let cool in the pan on a rack until you can handle them.

Add pecans to the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides as necessary. Add maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and process until combined. Store in an airtight container.

Maple-Roasted Pecan Butter will keep at room temperature for up to a week, or indefinitely in the refrigerator.

Maple Pecan Pie {One Year Anniversary!}

Maple Pecan PieTomorrow’s a big day–this little blog is turning one year old! That’s 140 posts, 136 recipes, and more flour and sugar than I care to think about. It’s also late nights, hours of recipe testing, and a lot of joy. I have a job and a side business, but this blog is what matters most to me. It’s probably the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken, and I can’t wait to see how it grows in year two.

It’s comments, encouragement, and support from all of you that keep me in the kitchen creating new things. Thank you for reading and making my recipes in your kitchens. Thank you for sharing this little blog with your friends and family. It’s a real blessing to have so many people following my little passion project.Maple Pecan Pie

So, how does one celebrate their blog’s anniversary? Well, they furiously text their little sister and two close friends saying “What should I make for the blog’s one year anniversary?” One recommended a throwback to my first post. One recommended something from my childhood. And one goes to Harvard and doesn’t have time for my petty nonsense (love you, Smel).Maple Pecan Pie

With their suggestions in mind, I started thinking about pecans and about my grandmother, Nonnie. She lived in a tiny little house near Benbrook, Texas, and she made the very best biscuits and chocolate cake in the world (according to my family, at least). She made my dad breakfast literally every Sunday morning until she was no longer able to cook. My mom, little sister, and I would go to church while my dad ate fried eggs with sausage and biscuits, following it up with a twenty minute power nap in her red chair. Every fall, Nonnie and my dad would go into her backyard and rack her huge pecan tree. He’d bring home gallon-size zip-top bags full of Texas pecans and show Eliot and I how to properly break the shells and eat the meats, just like his mom showed him, just like we’ll do with our (figurative) children someday.

I don’t remember Nonnie ever making pecan pie from her tree in the backyard–I figure that cracking the shells was too much for her arthritic hands. But I also don’t remember a holiday without pecan pie. It’s always been a part of my family’s story.Maple Pecan Pie

So, today, let’s celebrate one year of blogging with Maple Pecan Pie, the perfect tribute to my family, my Texan childhood, and my northeastern adulthood. This pie has everything you love about traditional pecan pie, but with a hefty dose of maple syrup and my go-to Cream Cheese Pie Crust. The filling is sweet, but not cloying, thanks to a little apple cider vinegar, and it has a little depth from the addition of nutmeg. If you’re going to mess with something as iconic as pecan pie, this is the way to do it.

And if you’re going to acknowledge one year of baking and blogging, Maple Pecan Pie is the perfect way to celebrate.Maple Pecan Pie

Maple Pecan Pie
makes one 9-inch standard pie

1/2 recipe Cream Cheese Pie Dough
1 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 cups pecan halves, roughly chopped
whipped cream, for serving (optional)

On a floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll pie dough to a 12-inch diameter. Fit in pie plate. Cut excess to 1/2-inch, and crimp as desired. Chill pie crust.

Place the oven rack in the bottom-third position. Preheat oven to 350F.

Make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together maple syrup and dark brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time, whisking until combined. Stir in apple cider vinegar, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk constantly as you drizzle in the melted butter.

Remove pie plate from the refrigerator and place it on top of a rimmed baking sheet (for catching overflow, although you shouldn’t have any). Place chopped pecans in the bottom of the pie crust. Pour filling over the top. Bake pie 40-50 minutes, tenting with foil at the 20 minute mark.

Let pie cool completely on a rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream, if desired.

Maple Pecan Pie

Magic Blondies

 Today’s the day! In just a few hours, I’m going to pile into a car with three of my girlfriends and set off for a rustic island off the coast of Maine! I can’t wait.

We won’t reach our destination until tomorrow evening though. It’s a ten hour drive from Brooklyn, so we’re stopping overnight in Connecticut and saving the long-haul for Saturday. We’ll spend those hours planning our grocery list and listening to music, getting psyched up for our week off. And of course, since ten hours is a looooong drive, we’ll have snacks. I’m bringing these Magic Blondies. 

What makes these blondies so magical? Well, if you’ve ever had Magic Bars (aka 7 Layer Bars or Hello Dollies), you know the amazing things that happen when you bake a combination of sweetened condensed milk, shredded coconut, pecans, butterscotch chips, and chocolate chips over a graham cracker crust. The sweetened condensed milk caramelizes, the coconut and pecans get toasty, and the butterscotch and chocolate chips get super soft. The gooey combination is insanely good over buttery graham cracker crust! 

But graham cracker crust is crumbly, and therefore not great for road tripping. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend ten hours picking crumbs out of upholstery! That’s where the blondie part comes in! I swapped the traditional graham cracker crust for my favorite blondie base before pouring over the sweetened condensed milk and all the toppings. Everything bakes into the batter, leaving you with a soft, brown sugary blondie topped with a layer of gooey, melty, nutty magic!

These Magic Blondies are perfect for picnics, cookouts, and obviously, road trips! Wherever you take them, they’re sure to be, well, magical 😊

What are you doing this weekend? 

 Magic Blondies
makes one 9×9″ pan,* about 16 blondies 

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup butterscotch chips
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch square baking dish. Line with parchment, leaving a little overhang on the sides for easy removal from the pan. Butter the parchment. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter and light brown sugar. Stir in the egg and vanilla, followed by flour and salt. Transfer batter to the prepared baking dish.

Drizzle sweetened condensed milk over the top of the blondie batter. Top with shredded coconut, followed by pecans, butterscotch chips, and chocolate chips. With a clean hand, press down lightly to get toppings to slightly adhere to the sweetened condensed milk.

Tap pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake for 30 minutes, tenting with foil if anything begins to brown too quickly. Blondies are done when the sweetened condensed milk layer just barely jiggles when the pan is jostled.

Let blondies cool completely in the pan. Use the parchment to lift them out of the pan. Slice into 16 squares. Serve room temperature or cold.

Magic Blondies will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Note:

An 8×8″ pan may be used.

Chocolate Chip-Pecan Brown Butter Blondies

 Father’s Day is this Sunday, and I’ve been thinking all day about what I would say about my dad. I mean, I’ve already said a lot–I wrote about him in my first blog post. But he’s such a great guy, I had to give him another. 

My dad is the kind of guy who taught his three daughters how to play golf, throw a baseball, and shoot hoops. But he also did the Father-Kid number at my dance recitals for seven years straight (and once in tights).

He works really hard and is always trying to better himself–intellectually, physically, in his chosen field, in relationships, you name it. His tagline is “Always go forward.” And he means it. Thank goodness that’s the line he uses most frequently–I don’t know how I would have worked “See that? *points to glass* That’s glass,” into this post. 

While my dad has had some success in his life, he is also one of the humblest people I’ve ever met. You can congratulate him on something he’s achieved and, after he thanks you, he’ll immediately turn the conversation to you and what you are achieving. This is something I try to emulate in every interaction I have.

I could go on and on about him, but let me just say this: my dad is a kind, sweet, compassionate, generous person. He has ambition coming out his ears. He loves my mom, his daughters, his friends, and his dog fiercely. If I become half the person he is, I will consider myself the luckiest girl on earth. 

My dad loves chocolate, especially brownies, and he always tops them with pecans that get super toasty while they bake. I’ve already made a pecan-topped brownie recipe on here though, so today, we’re going with blondies. But not just any blondies: Chocolate Chip-Pecan Brown Butter Blondies. They’re super chewy, filled with melty chocolate, and extra nutty from the toasted pecans and brown butter. 

I know my dad would love these and they’re so simple, he might even try to make them. The recipe only has eight ingredients and doesn’t require a mixer. It can be made start-to-finish in about forty minutes! The hardest part is browning the butter, and that takes almost no effort at all. You could make these blondies with regular melted butter and they would be great, but by taking the time to brown it, you add tons of rich, nutty flavor to the finished product. 

Browning butter is mostly letting butter melt over a burner and then letting it continue to cook until it turns a lovely shade of amber. The only real tip I have is not to take your eyes off the pan. Do not step away from the pan, even for a second. Butter can go from brown to burnt in the blink of an eye, and there are few things I hate more than wasting good ingredients.

To brown butter, start by melting a stick of butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Make sure to use a silver or white pan so you can clearly see the butter browning. Once the butter melts, it will start to bubble and crackle. Don’t be alarmed–this is just the water content evaporating. Once the crackling stops, swirl the pan occasionally for 4-7 minutes. You’ll see the milk solids in the butter gradually start to brown. You’ll know your brown butter is ready when you smell the most amazing, deeply nutty, buttery aroma coming from the pan. At this point, turn off the heat and pour the brown butter into a large mixing bowl. That’s it!

Mix your brown butter with brown sugar, an egg, some vanilla, flour, and salt. Fold in some toasted pecans and chocolate chips before spreading the batter into a pan and baking it for 20 minutes. Let the blondies cool to room temperature before slicing and serving. 

If I were going to be anywhere near the great state of Texas this weekend, I’d make these Chocolate Chip-Pecan Brown Butter Blondies and serve them warm with ice cream, just how my dad likes his brownies. They’re fantastic at room temperature too, and perfect for packing into a box to deliver to all the great dads in your life.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddio! 

 Chocolate Chip-Pecan Brown Butter Blondies
makes one 8×8″ pan, about 9-16 blondies

1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish with butter, and dust with flour. Set aside.

Toast the pecans. Place pecans on a dry baking sheet. Place in the oven for 4-5 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool completely.

Brown the butter. Place butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Let butter melt. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 4-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour the brown butter into a large mixing bowl.

Add brown sugar to the brown butter and stir to combine (it will be thick and look like wet sand). Whisk in egg and vanilla. Use a silicone spatula to stir in flour and salt, scraping down the bowl as needed. Stir in chocolate chips and toasted pecans.

Spread batter into prepared pan and bake for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. Let blondies cool in the pan on a rack until they reach room temperature. Run a small, thin knife around the edge of the pan to release them (they should be sturdy enough to lift out of the pan in one piece). Slice and serve.

Blondies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.