These Florentine Cookie Bars are heaped with a candied mixture of nuts and dried fruits. A shortbread crust provides a buttery base for all of those sweet toppings.
You may be familiar with Florentine cookies, which are delicious lacy European cookies topped with dried fruits and toasted nuts. These bars are similar. But instead of baking individual cookies, a whole sheet of shortbread is loaded with the traditional Florentine candied fruit and nut mixture, then baked. It’s a nice way to make a bunch of tasty cookies without having to do lots of scooping.
Begin with a simple shortbread crust. It’s an easy dough to mix up and roll out. If you have a fluted pastry wheel, then use it to ruffle the edge of the dough. Otherwise, square up the edges with a sharp knife.
Save the scraps and re-roll them for some cute star toppers! Bake the base and the cookies and let them cool while you prepare the topping.
Next, cook up butter and sugars together. You’ll need to bring the mixture to about 250°F on a thermometer.
Toss together the dried fruits and nuts. This recipe uses about 1 1/2 cups of sliced almonds alone, which seems like a lot when you pour it into the bowl. I was a little shocked – but not at all deterred!
When the mixture comes to temperature, pour the candy over the fruit and nuts. Stir together well. If you spray a rubber spatula with cooking spray, then you’ll have an easier time mixing everything together.
Spread the mixture over the crust and bake for a second, short time. This adheres the fruit and nut mixture to the shortbread and makes the whole thing chewy and awesome.
After the second bake, cut the sheet into bars. The serving size is variable here, but just a small bar packs a punch. Aim for about 24 slices, although you could go as high as 36.
Top the bars with the star shapes and serve. You can also package them in a beautiful cookie tin, just layer between sheets of wax paper so they don’t stick to each other.
Loaded with candied fruit and nuts, Florentine Cookie Bars definitely have lots of holiday appeal.
These bars hold and abundance of fruit and nuts on a buttery shortbread base. Serving a platter full is a wonderful way to celebrate the season, and they also make a tasty homemade gift. I usually cut the cookie sheet into 24 pieces, but you can make them smaller. There’s a lot of flavor packed into each bar, so even a small piece can be very filling.
- 1 cup salted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for rolling out
- 1/4 teaspoon fine grain salt
Fruit and nut topping
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 14 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 3/4 lb. sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup dried apricots finely chopped
- 1/2 cup dried cherries finely chopped
In a large bowl, cream the salted butter with 1/2 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and egg yolk and beat to combine. Gradually add the flour and salt; mix well. The dough will be very soft.
Spread a sheet of 16×11 inch parchment paper on a work surface and dust with flour. Roll the dough out on the paper using a floured rolling pin to 1/4 inch thickness. Using a fluted pastry wheel or a large chef’s knife, trim the overhanging dough to about 15×10 inches, just inside the parchment paper. Transfer the dough on the parchment to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Leave the oven on.
Re-roll the scraps and cut 1” star shapes out; place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Chill the shapes for 5 minutes in the freezer then bake for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely and set aside for decoration.
Fruit and nut topping
Place the almonds, cranberries, apricots and cherries in a large bowl. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the unsalted butter, sugar, honey, and cream. Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the temperature registers 250°F on a candy thermometer. Remove pan from the heat and pour over the nut and fruit mixture. Mix well.
Using a spatula gently spread the warm topping over the shortbread crust. Bake until the fruit and nut topping is caramelized and the almonds are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and slice into squares while still warm. Top each square with some of the cut-out shortbread stars. Cool completely before serving.