When I had the opportunity to redesign my entire blog when I made the jump from Blogger to WordPress, I pictured my new space as an island in the middle of a nowhere, a sort of haven for my thoughts unaffected by time or reality, hence the minimalist layout with just a single column and concealed page and category links under the menu bar. I also didn’t bother much about site traffic and SEO and didn’t label my pictures (oops) so I’m now having to edit 60 odd blog posts’ worth of image data, which I could probably finish over a weekend accompanied by four cups of coffee but the idea of working a on repetitive, mind-numbing and time-consuming task is not very appealing…
But I digress. It struck me lately that I was more than fine with the thought of broadcasting my blog to a larger audience where before I would have balked at the idea of having my personal thoughts read by more than just a handful of people. I attribute this shift partly to a greater sense of confidence in my writing and as a human being, largely speaking. But perhaps the bigger impetus is a longing for a marked shift in my everyday – more interaction with the world at large and ideally as a result, more positivity and excitement. With the ongoing pandemic that has made venturing outdoors much more difficult than it used to be, leading people to search for ways to regain some semblance of their former lifestyles online, it would be interesting to see how digital spaces (especially traditionally less interactive ones such as websites) transform in the coming months… Bottom line is, I’ll be making more of an effort to put my blog on the google search map and at the same time, provide my readers with more avenues to interact with the content that I create.
Anyhoo, back to the delicious portion of this blogspot – these cookies. These are part of a bake sale that I did recently that is a collection of sweet little bites to pair with your daily cup(s) of caffeine intake. There are also brownies and my favorite browned butter chocolate chunk cookies and I was initially thinking of making the third addition something chocolate based too, but ultimately decided against that notion because as crazy as it sounds, I thought that an all chocolate collection would be boring. These florentine shortbread cookies are frankly anything but, with their firm, buttery cookie base and soft (not chewy!) nutty caramel layer.
When I was thinking of how to photograph these cookies (the mind never stops, does it haha), I knew I wanted to incorporate more textures and elements as well as darker lighting to create a greater sense of depth in my pictures. I’ve also always wanted to attempt a “breakfast-in-bed” sort of situation (although realistically I would never because it’s a laundry day waiting to happen) so I retrieved my grey linen cloth and side dish that I had shipped back from Tokyo, and also poured myself a cup of coffee because we adore a functional prop. Conveniently I had a small wooden tray lying around at home that I could use, but I was actively scouring the web for the perfect tray. I just love how functional and visually interesting trays can be, and they come in such a variety of styles! I’ve listed a few that caught my eye above. I can definitely see myself using the round rattan tray for more pseudo breakfast in bed mornings and this gorgeous blue and white patterned one as a table centrepiece.
Honey Florentine Shortbreads
makes 16 small squares
The original recipe is a Pierre Hermé original that I referred to via the Food and Wine website. The original recipe dips the shortbreads in chocolate, which is an extravagance I didn’t opt for this time. It’s an excellent idea however, and I can imagine how heavenly the combination of buttery shortbread, nutty caramel with a tinge of orange and dark chocolate would be.
For the pastry:
168 grams chilled unsalted butter, diced
75 grams sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
228 grams all-purpose flour
For the caramel topping:
125 ml heavy cream
finely grated zest of 1 orange
237 grams sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
80 ml water
170 grams honey
112 grams unsalted butter, cold
3 cups sliced blanched almonds
Make the pastry: Line the bottom and sides of a 9 x 9 inch square pan with parchment paper. In a food processor, pulse the diced butter with the sugar and salt until blended together. Add the flour and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer the dough to the pan and press into a thin, even layer. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 180C. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Set aside on a wire rack while you make the caramel topping. Raise the oven temperature to 220C.
Make the caramel topping: Heat the heavy cream and orange zest in a small saucepan to a simmer. Set aside. In a larger saucepan, bring the sugar, corn syrup and water to a boil, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Cook over medium high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture takes on a medium amber hue. Remove from heat and add the infused cream, honey and cold butter. Stir until the butter has melted and the mixture is homogenous. Stir in the sliced almonds.
Spread the caramel evenly over the shortbread base and return to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the topping is bubbling. Remove from oven and let cool completely. I find it easier to slice when cold, so once it has cooled to room temperature I refrigerate it overnight and then divide into 16 squares. Anything bigger than that is sure to promise a massive sugar high and crash, but it’s your call.