These candy-like cookies are a classic European delicacy, elegant and swanky. They are the thinnest and crispest of all lace cookies. This version has two cookies sandwiched together with chocolate in the middle. The dough is mixed in a saucepan; you will need a candy thermometer. Baking these takes quite a while because they must be baked with only a few on each cookie sheet or they run together. The finished cookies must be refrigerated (or they may be frozen).
1/4 pound (1 stick) sweet butter
For the Chocolate Filling:
3 to 4 ounces semisweet chocolate (see Note)
Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil. (The foil must be smooth and unwrinkled. It is best if you use cookie sheets that are flat on three sides and have only one raised rim. If not, just be very careful that you do not wrinkle the foil.)
You will need a saucepan with about a 6-cup capacity; it should be narrow rather than wide for the thermometer to register correctly. Place the butter, sugar, milk, and honey in the saucepan over moderate heat. Stir occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil. Place a candy thermometer in the saucepan and cook without stirring until the thermometer registers 232 °F (111°C) (the "thread" stage).
Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the vanilla, almonds, orange peel, and flour.
Now place the saucepan over the lowest possible heat and stir occasionally to keep the mixture from hardening.
Use a level or slightly rounded teaspoonful of the mixture (do not use more) for each cookie, placing the mounds 3 to 4 inches apart on the foil-lined sheets. (These spread into large wafers; you will be able to make only 5 or 6 cookies on a 12 x 15-1/2-inch cookie sheet.)
Bake two sheets at a time for 10 to 12 minutes, reversing the sheets top to bottom and front to back as necessary to insure even browning. Bake until the cookies are browned all over; do not underbake. (A few of the nuts might remain lighter, but the cookies must be well done.) If you bake one sheet at a time bake it on the higher rack.
Now the cookies must stand on the foil until they are completely cool. If you are using cookie sheets with three flat sides you can slide the foil with the cookies off the sheet (be careful to keep it smooth so the cookies will cool and harden perfectly flat). Then you can slide the cookie sheet under another piece of foil that has unbaked cookies on it, and continue baking. (If you reuse the foil it must be wiped dry and spread out completely smooth, or the cookies will run into any creases in the foil and will lose their round shape.)
When the cookies are completely cool, gently peel the foil away from the backs of the cookies. Do not let them stand around or they will lose their wonderful crispness. Sandwich them immediately and refrigerate.
Break up or coarsely chop the chocolate (morsels may be used as is) and place it in the top of a small double boiler over hot water on low heat. Cover until partially melted. Then uncover and stir until completely melted and smooth. Remove the top of the double boiler.
With a small, narrow metal spatula spread a thin layer of the chocolate on the bottom of a cookie, leaving an uncovered border about 1/2 inch wide. Cover the cookie with another one, placing it so that both flat sides meet in the middle. Gently press the two cookies together. You will see some of the chocolate oozing out of the lacy holes in the cookies. That is as it should be, but there should not be much. And the chocolate should not spread out all the way to the rims of the cookies – so don't use too much.
As you sandwich the cookies place them on a tray in the freezer or refrigerator only until the chocolate is set. Then package airtight in a strong box with plastic wrap or wax paper between the layers. (I wrap them individually in cellophane and then package them in a box.) Refrigerate or freeze. (If you freeze Florentines the box with the cookies should be transferred to the refrigerator for a few hours before the cookies are unwrapped and served.)
Serve Florentines cold or at room temperature. But don't unwrap them until just before they are served; humidity will make them lose their crispness.
Note: Any semisweet chocolate may be used. I have used many different ones and they all worked well – the cookies were always delicious. But Florentines deserve the best chocolate you can get.
Yield: 24 Cookie Sandwiches
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