Thursday, January 1, 2015

Dining In - Almond Florentine Bar Cookies

Florentine Bar Cookies - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen - Vegan Recipes
Florentine Bar Cookies - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen

I made these as a Christmas gift for my grandmothers. When flipping through dessert recipes I thought they looked so elegant and would work well for packaging in a decorative tin. The process was multi-step, but fairly easy. Almost all ingredients are kitchen basics and may only require a quick trip to the store. 

The bottom layer was similar to a buttery shortbread cookie that was then topped with a gooey sweet almond-filled sauce, which hardened after baking and cooling. Once cut into squares, they were drizzled with melted chocolate to take them to the next yummy level and add an aesthetically-pleasing garnish. This recipe is from Chloe Coscarelli's latest cookbook Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen (buy yourself a copy here to fully enjoy!). I cracked it open for the first time this Christmas and am quickly progressing through recipe by recipe. 

1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Almond Sauce Topping
1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup almond milk
3 tablespoons agave syrup
1/4 cup flour
2 cups sliced almonds

Chocolate Drizzle
1 cup non-dairy semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon canola or coconut oil

Cookie Crust Ingredients
in Food Processor
To Prepare Crust: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 inch baking pan (deeper than a cookie pan).

Place all ingredients for the cookie crust in a food processor and pulse many times until you see the margarine has been incorporated and it resembles a fine meal.

Pour into the baking pan and spread evenly to cover the bottom. Press down to pack it in. Bake for about 10 minutes until it looks golden brown and is dry and hardened (I don't think I baked long enough as the cookie part was a little softer when it all cooled). 

To Prepare Almond Sauce Topping:

Use a medium saucepan and heat  on medium-high the margarine, sugar, almond milk, and agave so that it boils. Continue cooking at a boil for 10 minutes, but don't abandon the pot (it may boil over). Remove from heat and add in flour and almonds. Stir well. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Vegan Almond Cookie Topping

Assemble cookie bars by spreading the almond sauce topping over the cooked bottom shortbread layer. Cook for another 20 minutes, but check on it towards the end to make sure the topping doesn't begin to burn. 

Let cool completely before slicing into small squares. I found that using a pizza cutter works well for this step, but it won't reach all the way to the edge, so use a knife and/or metal spatula to finish the job. Remove squares from pan and place on a large flat baking sheet covered with parchment paper for the final step!

To Prepare Chocolate Dip:

Vegan Burnt Chocolate in a Pan
Burnt Chocolate :(
I had a baking fail on this step. I've melted chocolate a hundred times for the now FAMOUS vegan chocolate chip cookie dough balls. This time I burned the chocolate and had to repeat. Be careful to microwave on medium to low power for only a minute or less at a time and stir before continuing to melt. Once the chocolate hardens you can't successfully reheat it without it burning and drying up. You can also heat a small pot of water on the stove covered by a bowl with the chocolate chips in it (a homemade double boiler). You'll still need to stir frequently to distribute heat. 

Adding the oil will create a more fluid chocolate for decorating with, similar to a ganache. Use a fork or a squeeze bottle (like ketchup and mustard bottles - they sell these at kitchen supply stores) to drizzle melted chocolate on the bar cookies. 

Allow them to cool at room temperature or chill them in the refrigerator. Enjoy! - Vegan Almond Chocolate Florentine Bar Cookies Blog

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