Italian seven layer cookies, also known as rainbow cookies, are an Italian Christmas tradition. These colorful cookies are made with layers of almond paste, apricot preserves and covered with bittersweet chocolate. Seven layer cookies are a staple at most Italian bakeries, but they taste so much better if one makes them from scratch at home.
While these cookies aren’t difficult to make, this Examiner will say that they take a baker with patience. Each colorful layer is somewhat tedious, but the end result is well worth every effort. The main ingredient in these cookies are almond paste. As in this almond cookie recipe, almond paste is a mixture of ground almonds, sugar, water and almond extract. It is also the ingredient that gives Italian cookies that signature taste and chewy texture. Almond paste can be found in 8 oz cans at the Norfolk Wal-Mart or Farm Fresh Supermarket. It can also be found at Wine and Cake Hobbies in Norfolk.
Italian Seven Layer Cookies - makes about 40 cookies
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup sugar
- 8 oz almond paste (about 1 ¼ cups packed)
- 2 ½ sticks unsalted butter
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 2 cups flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 30 drops red food coloring
- 30 drops green food coloring
- 18 oz jar apricot preserves, heated and strained (about 1 cup after straining)
- 12 oz bittersweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x13” baking pan, layer with parchment paper leaving a 2” overhang, butter again.
Using a whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium high until foamy. Slowly add ¼ cup of sugar and beat until the egg whites hold a stiff peak. Transfer to another bowl.
Using a paddle attachment, beat the almond paste together with the remaining ¾ cup of sugar until blended. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy. Add yolks and almond extract until combined. Finally, reduce speed to low and slowly add flour and salt until incorporated.
Fold half of the egg whites into the batter until blended. Carefully fold in the remaining egg white to lighten up the batter.
Separate batter evenly into 3 bowls. Add red and green food coloring to the bowls, leaving the white batter to the side. Pour red batter into prepared baking dish and smooth until approximately ¼ thick. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the pan and let cool completely. Prepare pan in the same manner as above and bake the white and green layer. Let all layers cool completely.
Invert the green layer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread with half of the apricot preserves. Carefully place the white layer on top and spread with remaining preserves; place the red layer on top. Cover with plastic wrap and place a heavy dish on top to weigh it down (this Examiner used the baking dish). Chill for 8 hours or overnight.
Remove the cookies from the fridge and let come to room temperature. Using a sharp knife, trim the edges to make even. Melt 6 oz of bittersweet chocolate over a double boiler and spread an even layer of chocolate on top. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until hard. Place a piece of parchment on top and invert it onto another baking sheet. Melt the remaining chocolate and spread on top and over the sides of the cookies; refrigerate until hard
Once the final layer of chocolate is hard, cover and place in the freezer until frozen. These are a mess to cut if they aren’t frozen. Cut into 1 ½” strips, then into 1 inch squares. These cookies can be left at room temperature for a 2 weeks, however they are best if refrigerated.