I can tell you from experience that these lacy, sweet and salty cookies go quite nicely with hot chocolate on a lazy sick day. Early in the morning we declared it a pajama day at our house and I can think of no better lazy day activity then giving a lesson in Mexican hot chocolate and how to use a molinillo. A certain four year old also got a lesson in the art of chocolate drizzling (can you guess which ones he did?) and we all learned that a 10 am hot chocolate and cookie break is indeed a great way to pass the time.
Of course it’s traditionally almonds in a Florentine but as I was developing this recipe for a class I taught at the Pantry recently a bag of peanuts sat nearby and I thought, “why not?” Where corn syrup usually is I added in maple syrup and I think honey would be lovely here too. It’s a simple cookie that comes together quickly yet tastes of something special. My next move is crumbling up a few and scattering them over vanilla ice cream and while I’m at it I may even pour some of that leftover hot chocolate on top. Oh boy.
Salted Peanut Florentines
5 dozen 3 inch cookies, or 2 1/2 dozen sandwich cookies
1 3/4 cups roasted peanuts
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 stick (4 ounces) butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
flake salt for finishing
Chocolate Topping, optional: 2 to 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
Pulse the peanuts in a food processor until finely chopped, but not pasty. Stir together the nuts, flour and salt in a large bowl.
Put the sugar, cream, maple syrup and butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a rolling boil and sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, then pour mixture into peanut mixture and stir just to combine. Set aside until cool enough to handle, 10 minutes. As the batter sits it will firm up. Once at room temperature you may need to form the batter into a rough ball with your hands.
Scoop rounded teaspoons (for 3-inch cookies) or rounded tablespoons (for 6-inch cookies) of batter and roll into balls. Place on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 3 to 4 inches between each cookie since they spread.
Top with a sprinkle of flakey salt (such as Maldon).
Bake 1 pan at a time, until the cookies are thin and an even golden brown color throughout, rotating pans halfway through baking time, about 10 to 11 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve.
Optional chocolate topping: Put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with 1 inch or so of water to a very low simmer; set the bowl over, but not touching, the water. Stir the chocolate occasionally until melted and smooth. (Alternatively, put the chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Melt at 50 percent power for 30 second intervals in the microwave. Stir, and continue heat until completely melted.)
For sandwiches: Drop about 1/2 teaspoon chocolate onto on the flat side of half of the cookies and press together with remaining halves. Return to rack and let chocolate set.
For chocolate decor: Drizzle melted chocolate over Florentines as desired. Set aside at room temperature until chocolate is set.
Store baked cookies carefully, separated by parchment or waxed paper, in an airtight container for up to 3 days.