Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Italian Tricolor Cookies

These cookies take me right back to childhood. The section of Brooklyn we lived in had lots of Italian bakeries, so we never lacked sweets. These "rainbow cookies" or "7-layer cookies," as they're known, are my favorite, along with those butter cookies sandwiched with the apricot or raspberry jam half-dipped in chocolate with sprinkles (anybody got a recipe for that?). These tricolor cookies are sweet and almondy, and a perfect way to kick off Christmas cookie season.

The recipe calls for flavoring one layer with cocoa, and coloring another layer orange. I was out of red food coloring and unable to make orange, so I went with green, which looks avacado-y in this photo. I also only had one 8x8 inch pan, but these round cake pans worked out ok. The shapes didn't match up at the end, but I cut my way around them.

I don't recommend cookie cutters for the finished product, since the assembled layers were taller than the cutters. Sliced rectangles worked out the best. However you cut them, though, they'll taste great!

Baked Tricolor Cookies from Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
For the cookie layers
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
7 oz almond paste (recipe follows, but I used storebought)
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp pure almond extract
1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
Grated zest of 1 orange
Orange food coloring (liquid or gel)
2 tbs dark unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

For the filling
2/3 cup apricot jam
2 tbs amaretto liquer (I left this out)

For the glaze
6 oz dark chocolate (60% cacao)
1 tsp light corn syrup
1 stick unsalted butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter three 8-inch square baking pans. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Dust with flour and knock out the excess flour. (I used cooking spray in place of the butter.) Sift the flour and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste, sugar, and almond extract together until small crumbs form. Add the butter and beat on high speed until the mixture is combined. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add the orange zest and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in three parts, beating on low speed after each addition until combined.

Divide the batter among three small mixing bowls. In the first bowl, add a few drops of orange food coloring to the batter, and mix well. Continue to add a few drops of food coloring and mixing until the batter is medium orange in color. In the second bowl, add the cocoa powder to the batter and whisk until fully incorporated. Leave the third bowl plain.

Pour each batter into a prepared pan and smooth the tops. Bake the layers for 12 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack, remove the pans, and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.

In a small saucepan over low heat, stir the jam and amaretto until warmed through and completely blended, 3 to 5 minutes.

Place the chocolate layer on a serving rack and evenly spread half of the apricot jam over the top. Top with the plain layer and spread with the remaining apricot filling. Top with the orange layer and let the layers sit in the refrigerator for 5 minutes (or while you make the chocolate glaze).

In a large nonreactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly.

Spread the glaze over the top of the bar cookies, completely covering the orange layer (some glaze may spill down the sides of the cake). Place the tray in the refrigerator until the chocolate topping completely sets (about 1 hour). Remove the tray from the refrigerator, wait 30 minutes for the chocolate to warm up, and cut into 20 individual squares or use a small cookie cutter to cream your own shapes.

The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.

Almond Paste
1½ cups finely ground almonds
1 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
½ tsp pure almond extract

Put all the ingredients in a food processor with 2 tbs water and process until a paste forms. Remove from the processor, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate until ready to use. Extra almond paste, tightly wrapped, keeps well in the freezer.


  1. Hi! I've linked your post to my Tricolor Cookies post. You're welcome to join my cookbook giveaway.

    Baking is my Zen will be having a
    from August 8 through August 14, 2010.

    The giveaway will be the ‘not yet released’ cookbook,
    Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented
    By Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

    Carmen of Baking is my Zen

  2. My mother-in-law bakes the layers in deep cookie sheets lined with wax paper. After they're cooled, she covers each layer with another sheet of wax paper, places very heavy books on top and refrigerates them for a few hours. Once cooled & pressed, she adds the apricot and layers each sheet and refrigerates again for another hour. She also chocolate glazes both the top and bottom layers. Its quite the detailed process but reminds me of home.

    Hope this helps with your next attempt :)


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