Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Cookie Week Day 5: Tri-Color Cookies

For the grand finale, I have for you one of my family's biggest traditions - tri-color cookies. Also referred to as rainbow cookies or seven layer cookies, these treats are a staple in any Italian household for Christmas. This is a tried and true recipe that has been passed down through generations. I hope you have enjoyed my Christmas cookie recipes and hope you have a wonderful holiday season! (Check back after Christmas to see what I served for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners.)

Recipe yields 48 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
8 oz almond paste
1 1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 large eggs
Red food coloring
Green food coloring
12 oz apricot preserves
16 oz bittersweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Start off by preparing your pans. You will need three 13" x 9" jelly roll pans. Butter and flour the pans and then line them with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, sift your flour and sprinkle with the salt.

In a large bowl, beat together your sugar and almond paste. Almond paste can be very thick, so it is helpful to shred it to better incorporate with the other ingredients. Break off bits of your butter and add it to the mixture a little at a time until all butter and ingredients have been combined.

Separate your eggs so that you have your yolks in one place and your whites in a mixing bowl.

Add one egg yolk at a time to your butter mixture, making sure it is fully mixed in before adding the next. Repeat until all yolks have been incorporated. Once the yolks are in, add about 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Continue adding flour a little at a time until it is all combined.

In the bowl with the egg whites, whisk until they become thick. Once you see them start to foam, add your remaining sugar. Continue to whisk until stiff peaks start to form. (Helpful Hint: It is always better to use egg whites that are at room temperature. They will fluff up easier and remain airy for longer.)

Gently fold in 1/3 of your egg whites to the batter. Continue with another 1/3 and then the final bit. Your batter should now be light and airy. It should seem quite fluffy.

Using a kitchen scale, a measuring spoon or a well trained eye, divide your batter into three separate bowls. Add red food color to one bowl, green food color to the second bowl and leave the third bowl alone. Stir in food color and continue to add more until you reach the color you are looking for. Key Tip: The batter will always lighten in color after it is baked, so it is always better to go a little bit on the darker side. Also, it is best to use gel food coloring over liquid; that way the liquid does not change the consistency and texture of your batter.

Spoon the contents of each bowl into one of the prepared baking sheets. Dip an offset spatula in warm water and use it smooth out the tops of each layer. Do your best to spread all three as similar as possible so you have three even layers.

Place your trays in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely in their pans. No need to move them to a wire rack just yet.

Once the cakes are completely cooled, it is time to apply your jam. Use about 6 oz of jam for each layer, so using an offset spatula, spread about 6 oz of jam on your green layer. If you like more or less jam, you can adjust accordingly, but be cautious to add too much or it will be difficult for the cookies to stay together as each layer will be sliding around. Another little note is to not spread the jam all the way to the edges, when you arrange your cakes in layers, the jam will ooze out a little and reach the edges.

Once your green layer is set, use a wide spatula to lift your white layer from its tray and place it on top of the green layer. Remove the parchment paper from the bottom and then jam up your white layer similar to your green.

In the same manner with a spatula, transfer your red layer from its pan to on top of the white and jam layer and remove the parchment paper. Wrap up your cake with saran wrap. Use a second pan to rest on top and you can even put on cans or jars to weigh the pan down. Place the pan in the refrigerator and let it cool overnight.

In the morning, remove your pans, unwrap the saran wrap and gently flip your cake onto a cutting board. Peel the parchment paper off the green layer. Using a long serrated knife, cut the edges of the cake so you have four nice clean lines.

Now it is time to transfer your cakes to a wire cooling rack. Arrange the rack to it is on top of a baking sheet or some other surface that you won't mind getting a little dirty. Melt your chocolate over a pot of simmering water. Pour your chocolate on your cake, letting it drip down the sides so all edges are covered. You can use an offset spatula to smooth it out and help create an even surface on top. Tip: At this point, you get to determine how thick you want your chocolate layer to be. Just use your spatula to scrape off extra chocolate to create a thinner layer. Let the chocolate harden just enough so that it will hold its shape and then use a fork to create designs on the top.

Once the chocolate has sufficiently hardened, you can cut your cake into bite sized cookies. I was able to cut 48 cookies out of mine, but if you want them to be a little bigger, you will get less. To make it easier to cut through the hardened chocolate without cracking it, dip your serrated knife in hot water. Helpful Hint: In between each cut, clean off any debris on the knife (such as jam or cake crumbs), dip the knife in hot water and then make your cut. If you do this in between each cut, it will be much easier and the pieces will not crumble or become deformed.

Place your cookies on a tray and let them cool in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve them. Personally, I like these when they are a little on the colder side, but feel free to let them reach room temperature before serving. Enjoy & Happy Holidays!


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