Simply Gorgeous Vegan & Pareve Florentine Cookies
If there’s one word that doesn’t come up much on this site, it’s GORGEOUS. That’s because I’m all about flavour and convenience. If something tastes great, it’s not too much potchke to make, and it comes out reliably every single time, then it’ll go on my list of favourites. If it’s a hassle and never quite succeeds – well, it’s not one I’ll try more than a couple of times, let alone share with you here.
You might think these Florentine cookies are the exception. They certainly LOOK potchke-dik, especially if you garnish them up with drizzled chocolate, sprinkled icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar), or whatever frou-frou touches you care to add. But that’s the thing – they’re not.
These are startlingly delicious and easy to make! And DEFINITELY fall into that magical category of “I can’t believe they’re really pareve.” (Or vegan, or whatever your food choices are…)
Why Florentine cookies?
I grew up eating Florentine cookies, which we’d buy at Yitz’s (not-kosher) deli – Toronto’s answer to NYC's iconic Katz’s Deli. My grandfather used to take us there all the time, not coincidentally (I now realize) because they also sold cigars, and he loved him his cigars. There was so much I loved there, starting with the red soda, through the amazing deli meat (best left unsaid since this is a kosher blog, but it was all "kosher-style"), to the delicate chocolatey Florentine cookies (white and brown chocolate) at the end.
Mmm... nothing like them. Except this homemade version, which comes very, very close. The (not much) margarine and coconut cream gives them an almost buttery richness I adore.
Today, Yitz's is long-gone. They shut down permanently in 2019, but I stopped eating there somewhere around 1990. Yet out of the blue a few months ago I got a hankering (now that I'm over 50, I give myself permission to call these "hankerings" rather than "cravings" for their chewy, authentic Florentine cookies.
One thing you need to know about me: I'm lukewarm on almond cookies, or on "bits" in cookies in general. And I never in my whole life realized these were almond cookies until I started looking for recipes!
While I was searching, I found a lot of recipes that included butter and heavy cream -- this recipe, which is adapted from this site veganizes and parevizes things by replacing those with a little bit of whatever margarine you like best and coconut milk/cream.
When you’re spooning the mixture out on the pan, make sure you leave a good distance between them (if they DO merge while baking, wait ‘till cool, then snip apart with clean scissors). They will spread like crazy!
Once these are baked, you can decorate them in any way you love -- drizzle with chocolate, brush them with chocolate, add colourful sprinkles, sandwich together with the filling of your choice, or just eat them straight up. The method described here will give you a potchke-free way of gently melting chocolate so you can be sure it will set again nicely once it’s on the cookies. Here, I’ve flipped the cookies on their backs, bottom (flat) side up and I’m brushing them with chocolate, which I did twice on each cookie. Then, I flipped them chocolate side down back onto the same parchment sheets I baked them on.
Melt the chocolate…
Brush chocolate onto the cookie bottoms… (I did two coats)
Place cookies bottom side down on parchment paper:
While I usually let these cool on the parchment paper when they first come out of the oven, If you're feeling brave, you could even pull them off the pan a little early, while they're still pliable, and roll them up into interesting tube shapes that you could stick into ice cream or whatever.
So without any further ado…
Simply Gorgeous Vegan & Pareve Florentine Cookies
1 3/4 cup (between 150-200g) blanched almonds, sliced (the thin flat ones)
3 Tbsp flour (regular wheat or GF, whatever you like)
1 Tbsp orange zest (oranges aren't quite in season here so I used a packet of True Orange crystals)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar (any sugar you like)
1/4 cup margarine (you could probably use coconut oil for at least part)
2 Tbsp syrup (corn syrup, honey, rice syrup, whatever you like)
2 Tbsp coconut cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g dark chocolate (your favourite pareve baking chocolate)
1/2 tsp canola / coconut oil
1. Preheat oven to 300 F(150 C) or a little lower, depending on your oven.
2. Toast almonds and pulse in food processor a few times until they are fairly small. They don't have to be pulverized!
3. Mix in all dry stuff with the almonds (flour, orange zest, salt).
4. Combine wet ingredients in a pot over medium heat (margarine, syrup, coconut cream) and mix well. Bring to a boil. When ingredients look well combined and bubbly, turn it off and stir in vanilla.
5. Dump the dry stuff (almond mixture) into the pot, mix well, and let cool for about 10 minutes.
6. With two small spoons, scoop out a little mixture at a time and place on parchment papr on a large baking sheet. For prettier, rounder cookies, roll the mixture into small balls with damp fingers.
7. Bake 10 minutes, then rotate and bake another 4-5 minutes. Don't let them brown. Slide parchment paper onto cooling rack, but don't remove the cookies until they are completely cool and have solidified!
8. Use a fresh parchment paper sheet to continue the process for the rest of the dough. I alternated between 2 parchment paper sheets as the finished cookies cooled.
9. If cookies want to stick to the parchment when you remove them, use a spatula! If the cookies seem greasy, blot the bottoms with paper towel once they're cool. When all cookies are done and cooled, if you wish to brush them with chocolate, turn them upside-down on the cooling racks for a nice flat surface.
10. Once all cookies are cool, melt coconut / canola oil and chocolate in a pan in the oven for 4-5 minutes. Don't let it burn! Now, using a silicone brush, mix the oil/chocolate until it's uniform and brush it on the bottoms of the cookies.
11. Place chocolate-brushed cookies bottom-side down on a piece of parchment paper. DO NOT PICK THEM UP UNTIL THE CHOCOLATE HAS HARDENED! Chill in the freezer until chocolate has solidified.
Decorate in any way you like – here’s where you either wow your guests or get ready to amaze your kids – then serve and enjoy!!