Thursday, December 23, 2010
Italian Rainbow Cookies (Seven-Layer Cookies)
On Tuesday, my brother called me to ask if he could come over and help me make cookies.
Yes. I was shocked, too. And suspicious. Mostly suspicious.
After all, the boy doesn't even like cookies (unless they are vanilla with vanilla frosting). It's almost like we don't share half of a gene pool. Or look anything alike. Both. False.
Sigh. I need to get more realistic siblings.
Being that it is the holiday season and all, I put my doubts and misgivings aside and said, "Yes! Absolutely! Come forth!"
And then do you know what he did?
He came over and slept in my bed.
He slept through me caroling at the top of my lungs. Into his ear. He slept through me "accidentally" dropping a few pots and pans on the floor. Next to his ear. And he even slept through the heady scent of almond that immediately pervaded my apartment when I put these in the oven.
However. The joke was on him.
Because when he finally came to and managed to meander his way into the kitchen. And asked, "So where are the cookies?"
I smiled. Coyly. And cackled. Just a teeny tiny bit.
And said, "Oh, you know. They're in the fridge. Chilling."
"But they'll be done soon, right?"
A stare down ensued.
Finally. Just when tensions got thick enough that you could cut them with an offset spatula. "Let me answer your stupid question with another stupid question," I replied. Fight fire with fire. Good call. "How many milliseconds are there in eight hours?"
It was at this point, I think that smoke started to come out of his nostrils. (This is how you know that he is related my to my mother. They both have this nostril flaring thing that happens when they're mad.)
Because, you see. The boy does not like cookies. But these? These aren't just cookies.
They are rainbow cookies. They are the most coveted cookie out of the entire Italian cookie gamut. I know this because whenever my family orders a tray of Italian butter cookies. There are only approximately two of them on it. And we all know that things are more desirable when they're harder to get. (That's why I refuse to sleep with anyone on the first, second, third, or sixteenth date. Supply and demand, people. Or "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free", as my mother likes to tell me. Daily.)
Why are these cookies so great, you ask? Well obviously, you haven't tasted them (or at least not really good ones) if you're asking that question. I'll expand.
You see, you bite into them and you get chocolate, followed by an intense rush of almond, followed by a hint of sweet tangy apricot jelly. Your tastebuds dance. Everything feels right in the world. And then you realize that there are no more left because Italian bakeries tend to be very stingy with their rainbow cookies. Until this year, that is.
Because this year, you know me. And so you are either receiving a box of these. Or you are reading this recipe and are going to run off to your kitchen immediately to make 'em. Right? Right. I'm so glad we see eye to eye on this kind of thing. That's why I love you.
Anyways, this shall be my last post before Christmas! I want to wish you all a happy holidays filled with love, happiness, good food (although that falls into the "love" category, right?) and some really awesome presents. You guys are the best gift a girl could ask for, so thank you for always being so amazing. I already got everything I want for Christmas. Really. Thanks.
Italian Rainbow Cookies (Seven-Layer Cookies)
Makes about 5 dozen, depending on how small you cut them, adapted from Smitten Kitchen
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 (10 oz) can almond paste
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp salt
red and green food coloring gels
1 (12 oz) jar apricot preserves, heated and strained
7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Scharffenberger)
1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350. Butter a 13x9 inch baking pan and line it with parchment paper with 2 inches hanging off either edge. Butter/grease the paper.
2. Beat egg whites in mixer fitted with whisk attachment at medium-high speed until they just hold stiff peaks. Slowly add in 1/4 cup of sugar, beating at high speed until stiff glossy peaks form. Transfer egg whites to another bowl.
3. Switch to paddle attachment and beat together the almond paste and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add yolks and almond extract and beat until combined well, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low then add flour and salt and mix until just combined.
4. Fold half of egg white mixture until almond mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
5. Divide batter equally among three bowls. Dip the back of a metal fork into the red food gel and then use that to mix one bowl of the batter. Food coloring gels are super potent and this is all you will need for that pretty in pink color. Repeat with the green food gel and another of the bowls of batter. Put the green batter in the fridge. Pour red batter into prepared pan and spread with offset spatula. I would recommend using a really small offset spatula and then kind of roughly spreading the batter as far vertically and horizontally as you can without worrying too much about thickness. Then when it's basically where it needs to be, even it out more carefully. This was the hardest part of the whole thing for me so don't feel bad if it takes you a while!
6. Put in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until just set. It is important to UNDERCOOK these. They will look like they're not done but a toothpick inserted will come out clean.
7. Using paper overhang, transfer layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean pan, then grease and line again. Fill it up with the white layer and bake until just set. While the white layer cooks, take the green layer out of the fridge to return it to room temperature. Transfer white layer to a rack. Clean pan, then grease and line again. Fill it up with the green layer and bake until just set. Transfer to a rack to cool.
8. When all layers are cool, invert green layer onto a large parchment-lined baking sheet. Discard paper from layer and spread with half of preserves. Invert white on top of green layer, discarding paper. Spread with remaining preserves. Invert red on top of green layer. Discard remaining parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and weight with a large baking pan. I weighted with a large baking pan, and the two Mark Bittman tomes - How To Cook Everything and How To Cook Everything Vegetarian. Chill at least 8 hours. (Although I think I only waited 5. And they still turned out fine.)
9. Remove weight and plastic wrap. Bring layers to room temperature. Melt 3.5 oz of the chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, keeping the chocolate over the water.
10. Trim edges of assembled layers with a long serrated knife. Quickly spread the chocolate in a thin layer over the top of the cake. Chill, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and place another baking sheet on top. Invert cake onto baking sheet and remove parchment paper. Melt another 3.5 oz of chocolate and spread in a thin layer over the top of the cake. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
11. Cut lengthwise into as many strips as your heart desires. I think I ended up cutting seven or eight. As I said before, it depends on how small you want em! Cut strips crosswise into small squares.
Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment paper in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 weeks. They'll keep even longer in the freezer (and will be easier to cut, according to Smitten Kitchen!)
These are linked up to the 12 Days of Bloggie-mas over at A Moderate Life!