Saturday, June 30, 2012

Italian Rainbows!

I'm obsessed with rainbow cookies.

Whenever I stop by an Italian-American bakery, I invariably have to sample a few of these petit fours, almond cakes sandwiched with orange, raspberry, or apricot jam and sealed in dark chocolate. 

I never thought I could actually make them myself until I saw this recipe from the nouveau Italian restaurant Torrisi Specialities, first in New York Magazine and then again in Bon Appetit

These make a TON of cookies. I went with the Bon Appetit version, which makes half the amount of the New York version. The good news is they freeze beautifully.

The mode of operation is quite simple. You make three thin layers of cake, two dyed (I used extra food coloring for extra brightness), one plain, then layer them up with jam. Store them in the fridge, weighed down under heavy cans to press them firmly together, then spread melted chocolate over the top and bottom. When they're all set, cut to the desired size. Smaller and thinner is better.

A few tips.  First, underbake the layers slightly so they stay moist. Second, get some help in stacking the layers--these thin cakes are fairly fragile. I actually messed up my middle layer, but just smushed it into place. It worked out fine. Third, make sure to really press them down so they stick together. Fourth and finally, when spreading the chocolate, work quickly, as the cold cake causes the chocolate to firm up faster than you might expect.

Though I love them, these cookies aren't everyone's cup of tea: they're sweet and really almondy. But they look gorgeous!

Rainbow Cookies
adapted from Torrisi Specialities, as appeared in Bon Appetit


2 cups unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
6 large eggs, separated
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
12 ounces almond paste (not marzipan), chopped
2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon red food coloring (I used 2 tsp)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup orange marmalade, heated, strained
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, melted
1 teaspoon green food coloring (I used 2 tsp)

Special Equipment: 3 13x9x2" metal baking pans

1. Bake:
Preheat oven to 350° Line three 13x9x2" metal baking pans with foil, leaving overhang; grease with 2 tablespoon butter; set aside. Put egg whites in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk; beat until soft peaks form. Slowly add 1/3 cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a large bowl; cover; chill. Using the paddle attachment, beat almond paste and remaining sugar on medium-low until incorporated, 4–5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high; gradually add remaining butter. Beat until fluffy. Beat in yolks, then flour and salt. Fold in whites in 2 additions. Divide batter evenly among 3 bowls. Mix red coloring into 1 bowl and green coloring into second bowl; leave third bowl plain. Spread 1 bowl of batter into each prepared pan; smooth tops. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until just set, 9–11 minutes. Let cool in pans.

2. Layer:
With a pastry brush, spread half of marmalade over green cake. Using foil overhang, lift plain layer out of pan. Invert onto green layer; discard foil. Brush remaining marmalade over plain layer. Lift red layer out of pan; invert onto plain layer and cover cake with foil.

3. Weight:
Top with a 13x9x2" pan. Weigh down pan with several heavy canned goods to compress cake layers. Refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

4. Unmold:
Remove cans, top pan, and foil. Transfer cake to a waxed paper–lined baking sheet.

5. Glaze:
Spread half of chocolate over cake in a thin layer. Freeze for 10 minutes. Cover with waxed paper, invert the baking sheet on top, and flip cake. Uncover and glaze with remaining chocolate. Freeze 10 additional minutes.

6. Slice:
Trim cake to 12x8". Cut crosswise into six 2"-wide strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 96"-wide cookies. Store in an airtight container.

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