Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Rainbow Cookies

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Do you know what happens when you take one Mom, one Blogger, and a late Friday night to the food store?  The wrong ingredients.  Do you ever do this?  You go to the store; you want one ingredient (in this case apricot preserves).  The preserves are so expensive you choose the store brand instead; there are shelves of the store brand so you just pick up the closest one and head home to your pajamas and a movie.

Then, you actually try to make the recipe and you realize you bought sugar-free jam.  Ugh.  Luckily, in this case, it had no bearing on the end result—the cookies were fantastic anyway.  Mom usually tries to indulge the family favorites but rainbow cookies, a traditional Italian cookie (no wonder we love them), are the exception.  Our family clamors for them but Mom makes them about once every 3-5 years.

I’m not kidding; everytime she gets finished with them, and they are long gone (in about 1 night, let’s be serious), she promises to never make them again!  Apparently, her memory isn’t too good and she forgets how much she hates them, because a few years later, there she is, pulling out the old favorite.  They’re too good to swear off forever, but too time consuming to indulge in a couple times a year.  Make these for a special occasion; and then savor them.  A word to the wise, if you eat a dozen on the first night (like I might have), they will be gone.  And then you will be stuck with the memory of them until Mom gets up the strength to try again…in about 3 years.
 Rainbow Cookies (adapted from here)
Serves:  12 (5 dozen cookies)
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 (8-oz) can almond paste
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
25 drops red food coloring
25 drops green food coloring
1 (12-oz) jar apricot preserves, heated and strained
7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan and line bottom with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 ends, then butter paper.  Beat whites until they just hold stiff peaks. Add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating at high speed until whites hold stiff, slightly glossy peaks. 

In another bowl, beat together almond paste and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy, another 3 minutes. Add yolks and almond extract and beat until combined well, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add flour and mix until just combined.  Fold half of egg white mixture into almond mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter among 3 bowls. Stir red food coloring into one and green food coloring into another, leaving the third batch plain. Set white batter aside. Chill green batter, covered. Pour red batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with offset spatula (layer will be about 1/4 inch thick).

Bake red layer 8 to 10 minutes, until just set and a toothpick comes out clean. (It is important to undercook so the cookies stay moist!  They may look like they’re not done, but the toothpick comes out clean.)
Using paper overhang, transfer layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean pan, then line with parchment or wax paper and butter paper in same manner as above. Bake white layer in prepared pan until just set. As white layer bakes, bring green batter to room temperature. Transfer white layer to a rack. Prepare pan as above, then bake green layer in same manner as before. Transfer to a rack to cool.

When all layers are cool, invert green onto a parchment or wax-paper-lined large 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 layer on top of white layer and discard wax or parchment paper.
Cover with plastic wrap and weigh down with a large baking pan. Chill at least 8 hours.

Remove weight and plastic wrap. Bring layers to room temperature. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Keep chocolate over water. (Alternately, you can do what I did: melt the chocolate 3.5 ounces at a time just to make sure it doesn’t seize up between steps, though that shouldn’t be a problem if you only let it set for 15.)
Trim edges of assembled layers with a long serrated knife. Quickly spread half of chocolate in a thin layer on top of cake. Chill, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and place another baking sheet on top, then invert cake onto sheet and remove paper. Quickly spread with remaining chocolate. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Cut lengthwise into 4 strips (I cut them into more, because I wanted them 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide, as I remember them). Cut strips crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide cookies.

Do ahead: Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks. They’ll keep even longer in the freezer.

PS—you can make the colors whatever you want!  For a more spring-like color, mom used green and purple. instead of the traditional green and red.  Mix it up! 
Also, you can decrease the chocolate by half and only cover one layer of the cake which will be a little bit faster (Mom likes it best this way).  Of course, I always prefer double the chocolate!

Until the next time my oven is on…

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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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