These buttered bourbon florentines were the result of a series of questionable decisions on my part.
Should I maybe have tried hot buttered bourbon before making cookies based on that flavor profile? Probably yes. Might I have thought about the consequences of putting a cream filling in a shatteringly crisp cookie? Probably yes. Should I maybe have considered that this “cookie” might be straddling the very thin line between cookie and actual dessert? Also probably yes. Did I do any of those things?
Fortunately, these cookies came out extremely well – despite my best efforts.
I’ve had a fascination with florentine cookies for years. They are ethereally thin, delicate, infinitely moldable, and a little finicky – and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take another crack at them.
I was worried at first about the idea of adding bourbon to the batter mix. I thought that the additional liquid would thin things out too much, taking the cookie from “thin and delicate, but structurally sound” to “total unmitigated disaster that will never unstick itself from my cookie sheets.”
Fortunately, that worry was unfounded.
Unfortunately, even maxing out the amount of bourbon I was comfortable adding didn’t give me the bourbon flavor I wanted from my florentines. So I had to pivot and find a filling that would reinforce those boozy notes.
I tried bourbon-spiked whipped cream first…and let’s just say that was an unmitigated disaster. It was bitter and harsh and somehow made me not want to eat whipped cream – something I never thought would happen.
My next thought was pastry cream, but figured that might be too heavy for such a light cookie. So I tried lightening the pastry cream by folding in whipped cream, which worked beautifully – the second time around. Turns out if your pastry cream is too thick, folding in whipped cream results in something with a texture that sits uncomfortably between cottage cheese and pureed Jello.
Once I fixed the filling, though, the result was exactly what I was looking for – light, creamy, slightly boozy cream surrounded by a sweet, buttery lightly spiced cookie that shattered and melted into the filling as you bit down. It’s hugely messy to eat, but utterly delicious.
Of course, thinking about it now, filling the cookies with my brown butter bourbon buttercream frosting would have been far less messy…
Buttered bourbon florentines with diplomat cream
I deliberately chose to use oat flour for these cookies to keep them nut-free and to highlight the bourbon flavor, but you could easily swap in almond flour or ground pecans if you prefer.
I rolled my cookies into little tube shapes because I thought they’d be easiest to eat that way. The sky’s the limit on shapes though – drape the cookies over the spoon handle for tacos, lay them over muffin cups for little bowls, or bend them over a rolling pin for a more pringles-y effect. It all depends on what you want them to look like and how you want to personally interact with the filling.
For the cookies:
- 114 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 120 grams (½ cup packed )light brown sugar
- 13 grams (2 teaspoons) maple syrup
- 20 grams (1 tablespoon) light corn syrup
- 75 grams (¾ cup) oat flour, or ground oats
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
- 30 grams (2 tablespoons) bourbon
For the diplomat cream
- 2 egg yolks
- 56 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
- 15 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons) cornstarch
- 232 grams (1 cup) whole milk, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons bourbon
- 120 grams (1/2 cup) heavy cream, cold
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter has melted add the sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, oat flour, and spices. Continue to stir until the color has darkened slightly and the sugar has completely dissolved, about 3 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the bourbon. The batter should look glossy and oily, but not separated – if things look like they’ve split (i.e butter is floating on the surface or around the sides), give the batter a vigorous whisk and things should come right back together. Allow the lace cookie batter to cool on the counter until it has thickened slightly, 5-10 minutes.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat. Normally I’m very anti-Silpat when it comes to cookies since I think parchment paper gives superior results, but in this case, a Silpat is about the only things these suckers won’t glue themselves to permanently. Proceed accordingly.
Drop the cookie batter onto the cookie sheet by teaspoonfuls, giving each cookie about 3 inches to spread. Lace cookies spread hugely, so don’t start with too much batter and give them plenty of room. I wouldn’t go more than 6 per cookie sheet.
Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the cookies have spread and they have turned deep golden brown almost all the way across the surface. Until you know exactly how your oven behaves, I’d keep a close eye on these and start checking early.
Once the cookies are done, let them cool on the baking sheet for at least two minutes – you want them firm enough to come off the sheet, but still pliable enough to mold. Be warned you’re going to need asbestos fingers for this next part – they’re going to be hot. If you want tube shapes, wrap each cookie quickly and carefully around a dowel or wooden spoon handle, and let them set completely, about 30 seconds to a minute. If you don’t want tube shapes, feel free to try one of the other options in the notes above, or just let them harden on the baking sheet!
Once the buttered bourbon florentines are shaped and cooled, make the filling.
In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, granulated sugar, cornstarch, and two tablespoons of milk until they are very pale yellow and fall from the whisk in a thick ribbon.
While you’re whisking, begin to heat the remaining milk and vanilla in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Conventional wisdom says to heat the milk to a simmer, but I almost always take it to a full boil because the custard takes less time to thicken afterward. Either way, watch your milk like a hawk because it will boil over the second you turn your back on it.
Once your milk is boiling, take it off the heat and whisk it into the egg mixture, bit by bit, until the eggs are warm through. This should temper the egg yolks and keep them from scrambling. Once your eggs are warm, you can just dump the rest of the milk in at whatever pace you like.
Pour the egg/milk mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until it is very thick and comes to a boil. Boil the pastry cream for at least 30 seconds to deactivate the enzymes in the eggs that will weaken the starch.
Pass your thickened cream through a sieve into a medium bowl (I usually just rinse out the bowl I used earlier to save dishes) to catch any lumps of egg or scalded milk, then whisk in the butter half a tablespoon at a time. Whisk in the bourbon.
Line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap, and leave enough overhang that you’ll be able to fold the excess over to cover the pan. Pour the pastry cream onto the plastic-lined sheet pan to cool, making sure to press the excess plastic wrap into the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. It should only need about 15 minutes in the refrigerator to cool completely.
While the pastry cream is cooling, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks. You can do this in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, but I usually just rinse off the whisk I used for the pastry cream and whip it by hand. It saves dishes, and for such a small amount of cream it doesn’t take very long.
Once the pastry cream is cool, dump it into a bowl, whisk it smooth, then fold in the whipped cream.
Right before you’re ready to serve, pipe the diplomat cream into the florentines.
These buttered bourbon florentines will keep, unfilled, up to a week in airtight containment. The pastry cream (without the whipped cream added) will keep about five days in the refrigerator. Once you fold the whipped cream in, you’ll have a day or two before the whipped cream starts to break down.