Almond Shortbread Bars

Almond Shortbread Bars | Once Upon a Recipe

Only four days left until Christmas!

Every year, Christmas seems to sneak up on me. This year has been no different and despite the whirlwind of shopping, baking, and holiday-partying, I can’t believe we are so close to the big day. Nevermind the fact that 2014 is rapidly coming to a close. Seriously, where did the year go?

Almond Shortbread Bars | Once Upon a Recipe

I’m hoping to share a couple more recipes during this final countdown to the big day. If you’re looking for quick and easy sweets to add to your holiday dessert table, look no further. These almond shortbread bars are wonderful. They start with an easy shortbread base and are topped with sliced almonds that have taken a little swim in butter and brown sugar, creating a little caramel-y goodness.

Almond Shortbread Bars | Once Upon a Recipe

Every Christmas needs a little shortbread, in my opinion. Think of these bars as shortbread’s older, wiser, and hotter older brother. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

Almond Shortbread Bars | Once Upon a Recipe

Almond Shortbread Bars (adapted from Love Write Now)

Shortbread bars that get a little extra pizazz from a caramel-almond topping. These bars freeze well when stored in an airtight container. 

1 1/2 cups butter, divided

1 cup icing sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 TBSP. water

1 1/2 cups sliced almonds

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cream together 1 cup of butter and the icing sugar. Add the flour and salt and mix together. Press the mixture into an ungreased 9″ x 13″ pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

In the meantime, melt the remaining 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, lemon juice, and water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add the almonds and vanilla. Spread the mixture evenly over the base and bake for another 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool and then cut into bars.

What are your go-to last-minute holiday treat recipes?

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap: Dark Chocolate Almond Florentine Cookies

Dark Chocolate Almond Florentine Cookies | Once Upon a Recipe

Well, hellllllllooo friends!

Insert apologies about my lack of posts lately. Hoping to change that in the coming weeks!

We have much more important things to talk about right now. Cookies, obvi. This year marked my second time participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, hosted by two lovely ladies, The Little Kitchen and Love & Olive Oil. In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s a quickie on the details: It’s a worldwide food blogger cookie swap! Basically, you sign up, receive the addresses of three other bloggers, and then you send each blogger a dozen homemade cookies. And then you wait to receive three dozen delicious cookies from those that received your name. Oh, and the swap raises money for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer! Sweet treats and supporting a good cause = so many wins.

Dark Chocolate Almond Florentine Cookies | Once Upon a Recipe

My contribution to this year’s swap was the magnificent wafer-thin, chocolate-filled cookies you see above. They taste very similar to Almond Roca with their toffee-like flavour and addictive crunch. Each wafer is incredibly thin and delicate, but once sandwiched together around a layer of dark chocolate, these cookies become a little bit more sturdy (and clearly more delicious). I dare you to make a batch and not eat more than five one.

Dark Chocolate Almond Florentine Cookies | Once Upon a Recipe

Next year, be sure to participate in the swap! Check the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap website for more details. Happy holiday baking! See you again real soon.

Dark Chocolate Almond Florentine Cookies | Once Upon a Recipe

Dark Chocolate Almond Florentine Cookies (recipe from Bakerita)

These cookies are incredibly addictive with their satisfying crunch and chocolate centers. Their flavour is similar to that of almond roca. A batch will make about 36 cookies (18 sandwiches). They take a little time to make, but are completely worth the effort. The cookies keep well in an airtight container in the freezer.

1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
3 TBSP. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 TBSP. heavy cream
2 TBSP. light corn syrup
5 TBSP. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the almonds into a large bowl with the flour and salt and stir. Combine the sugar, cream, corn syrup and butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a rolling boil and the sugar is dissolved. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Add the saucepan mixture to the almond mixture and stir to combine. Place in the refrigerator to cool, about 30 minutes.

Scoop rounded teaspoons of batter and roll into (tiny!) balls. Place on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 3 to 4 inches between each cookie since they spread a lot. I found it best to only bake six cookies at a time; otherwise they just ran into each other.

Bake 1 pan at a time, until the cookies are thin and an even golden brown colour, about 10-12 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. One other tip: If your cookies are misshapen when you take them out of the oven, use a metal spatula to gently reshape them (as they will be very malleable when they come out of the oven).

Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over low heat. Pair up cookies of equal size. Spread chocolate onto one cookie (be gentle!) and press carefully together with another cookie. Repeat with remaining cookie pairs. Once completely cool, store in an airtight container.

Dark Chocolate Almond Florentine Cookies | Once Upon a Recipe

Looking for more amazing cookie recipes? Check out the lovely cookies I received from Sarah at Feasts For All Seasons (Chai Tea Shortbread) and Meg at Sweet Twist of Blogging (Mint Oreo Christmas Trees). Also be sure to check out the bloggers that I had the pleasure of sending these cookies to: Kristy at She Eats, Tina at What Taste, and Alicia at Bird House Diaries. xo

The Exchange | Neapolitan Cookies

Ready for more cookie recipes yet? ‘Cause there are a few coming down the pipe! Today I hosted a cookie exchange with some of my favorite family and friends. There were so many delicious cookies to share – I fear that I may end up eating my body weight in baked goods in the coming weeks! Clearly the afternoon was a success – check out my haul!

So many amazing treats – I can’t wait to try them all! I decided to share a recipe that I came across last holiday season – Martha Stewart’s Neapolitan cookies. I adapted the original recipe slightly (it also called for espresso powder in the chocolate half of the cookie, but I wanted to keep it a little more simple). The cookies were very well received last year, so I definitely wanted to share them with everyone this year. They take a little bit of time to make, but overall are quite easy, and they taste wonderful. The flavor of the orange, almonds, and cranberries blend perfectly with the chocolate and walnuts. These would make such a lovely homemade gift!

Christmas can be such a stressful time of year, with many demands (cooking, preparing for guests, shopping for gifts), but baking cookies is such a relaxing experience for me. I better be careful – at this rate I may end up with an insane amount of cookies to eat. But that would just mean more for sharing, one of my favorite holiday activities. Wouldn’t you love to receive a tin of homemade cookies from a friend? Try sharing these cookies (or making them for yourself). You won’t be disappointed. Happy eating!

Neapolitan Cookies (adapted from Martha Stewart)

For the orange-sable dough:                                         For the chocolate-walnut dough:

1 ¼ cups whole blanched almonds                              1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar                                                                           ½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder

¾ cup unsalted butter, room temp.                               1 cup unsalted butter, room temp.

3 TBSP. finely grated orange zest (2-3 oranges)       1 cup sugar

1 large egg                                                                            1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 TBSP. freshly squeezed lemon juice                           1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

To make the orange-sable dough: Place almonds and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the flour and set aside. Place the butter and zest in a bowl and mix using an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until white and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. On low speed, add the almond mixture; beat until combined. Add egg and lemon juice; combine. Wrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To make the chocolate dough: Sift flour and cocoa powder into a large bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla until creamy, 3-4 minutes. Working in additions, gradually beat in flour mixture, scraping down sides of bowl twice. Wrap in plastic and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with plastic wrap. In a large bowl, stir the cranberries into the orange-sable dough. In another large bowl, stir the walnuts into the chocolate dough. Press the orange mixture into the bottom of the pan. Using an offset spatula, (or wet fingers) smooth top evenly. Spread chocolate mixture over the orange mixture and smooth evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350oF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Shake the dough out of the pan and remove plastic. Cut into 2-by-8-inch bricks; cut bricks into ¼-inch-thick slices. Place slices on sheets, spaced 1 ½ inches apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.  Makes about 6 dozen.

PS. Later this week…Christmas Biscotti!

PPS. What is your favorite Christmas cookie recipe?

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