Holiday Cookie Contest Names $1000 Winner!

Lucca and Provenance Restaurants hosted a holiday cookie contest!  $1000 bucks to the winner!

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Irvine resident Natalie Hartanov won $1000 for her delicious Florentine Triangle Jewels!

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The contest took place at Provenance in Newport Beach. Chef-Owner Cathy Pavlos was on hand to join in the cookie tasting fun and, of course, to write the check!

(Provenance – The Garden at Eastbluff  is at 2531 Eastbluff Drive, Newport Beach. Restaurant critic Brad A. Johnson named it one of the best new restaurants of 2014.)

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THE RECIPE: Natalie’s  FLORENTINE TRIANGLE JEWELS – two ways …

“I’ve been making these beautiful cookies – a Florentine mixture baked on top of a butter crust — for Christmas cookie trays for more than three decades,” says Natalie Hartanov.  “For years, I used the candied fruits (as noted in the red and green variation at the end of the recipe), but lately I’ve been making them with dried apricots, dried cherries and almonds.   Either way, they look and taste fabulous!  Dip the edges in chocolate (I like to do this) for extra pizzazz.”

Butter Crust (recipe below)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots (use California Blenheim apricots, not Turkish)
3/4 cup chopped dried pitted tart Montmorency cherries
1 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons freshly grated orange peel
6 to 8 ounces bittersweet OR semisweet chocolate, melted
1. Line a 10×15-inch jelly-roll pan with non-stick foil.  Prepare Butter Crust.  Press crust dough evenly into bottom of the foil-lined pan.  Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven 12 to 13 minutes until just beginning to turn golden.  Remove from oven.
2. Meanwhile in a 3-quart saucepan, combine butter, granulated sugar and cream.  Place over medium heat; cook, stirring often, until mixture boils.  Boil 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Stir in apricots, cherries, almonds and orange peel.  Carefully spread mixture evenly over pre-baked crust.
3. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven 12 to 14 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown.  Cool in pan.  Cut cooled cookies crosswise (along 15-inch side of pan) into 6 strips.  Cut each strip into 4 or 5 squares/rectangles and then cut each square/rectangle diagonally into 2 triangles.  Refrigerate cookies, if desired.  Dip one edge of each triangle into melted chocolate.  Allow chocolate to set (refrigerate to speed up).  Store cookies in refrigerator.  Bring to room temperature to serve.  Makes 48 to 60 triangle cookies.

BUTTER CRUST:  In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, cut into pieces, and dash salt.  Process until blended.  With motor running, add 2 teaspoons vanilla and 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons whipping cream through feed tube, processing until dough clings together.

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RED AND GREEN FLORENTINE JEWELS:  Replace dried apricots and dried cherries  in above recipe with 1/2 cup EACH chopped red candied cherries, chopped green candied cherries and chopped candied pineapple OR chopped candied orange peel. Proceed as directed in recipe.

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Thanks to Natalie and the other four finalists for their delicious and beautiful cookies. And thanks to Cathy Pavlos for making it happen! Happy Holidays!

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