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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

SFoodie Advent Calendar, Day 6: Clarine's Florentines

Posted By on Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 1:14 PM

click to enlarge Clarine Hardesty has spent the last three years perfecting a single cookie. - JOHN BIRDSALL
  • John Birdsall
  • Clarine Hardesty has spent the last three years perfecting a single cookie.

The SFoodie Advent Calendar counts down the days before Christmas/Nondenominationalwinterholiday, one treat at a time.

Aren't florentines the cookies of Christmas teas, offered up by ladies in cashmere turtlenecks and plaid skirts? Sort of ― except the ones Clarine Hardesty makes, which have a hand-hewn quality that resists fancy. In 2007, Hardesty ― a schoolteacher at the time ― packed up her San Francisco classroom for the last time and pulled out the florentine recipe she and her mom used every year for the holidays. Hardesty's spent the last three years perfecting her florentine, and it's the only cookie she sells. "It's just something I knew I could do really well," says Hardesty, who now does production out of a commercial kitchen in West Berkeley.

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Hardesty's florentine is a semibrittle circle of toasted almonds the diameter of a coffee mug, shiny under a varnish of butter, sugar, honey, and cream, its underside thickly painted with bittersweet chocolate. The taste: a sort of caramel patina that fuses with the almonds' gilded sweetness, and a cushion of chocolaty richness that reminds you of tobacco leaf (Hardesty uses Guittard 72 percent). And while Clarine's creations are expensive enough to make even the most cashmered Pac Heights hostess balk, they're a holiday indulgence every bit as legitimate as that 42-inch plasma you aim to surprise your boyfriend with.

Clarine's Florentines: Suggested retail price is $2-$2.35 per cookie (depending on pack size). Available in S.F. at Bi-Rite Market, Rainbow Grocery, Blue Fog Market, Cheese Plus, and at the café at House of Air, as well as through Farm Fresh to You.

Previous days:

Dec. 1: Fruitcake from Schubert's Bakery

Dec. 2: Vegan Peppermint Joe-Joes
Dec. 3: Coconut snowball from Sweet Adeline
Dec. 6: Cranberry linzer verrine from Citizen Cake

Dec. 7: Panettone from Dianda's

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com

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