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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Italian Seven Layer Cookies

My friend Ivy desperately wanted to make these, and she clearly lacks my aversion to food coloring, but she was the boss of our recent cooking extravaganza and I let her have her way.  These are actually three quite delicious almost cakes held together by apricot jam, and topped with chocolate ganache and are delicious.  You could probably forgo making them the colors of the Italian flag.  Alternatively, you could make them the color of your own favorite flag.

  • 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
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 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
  • Special equipment: a heavy-duty stand mixer; a small offset spatula
  1. 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.
  2. Beat whites in mixer fitted with whisk attachment at medium-high speed 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. Transfer to another bowl.
  3. Switch to paddle attachment, then beat together almond paste and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add yolks and almond extract and beat until combined well, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add flour and salt and mix until just combined.
  4. Fold half of egg white mixture into almond mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly. 
  5. 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).
  6. Bake red layer 8 to 10 minutes, until just set. (It is important to undercook.)
  7. Using paper overhang, transfer layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean pan, then line with 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.
  8. When all layers are cool, invert green onto a 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 paper.
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and weight with a large baking pan. I put them back in the pans I baked them in, and put one on top, weighed down with cans.  Chill at least 8 hours.
  10. 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.
  11. 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. Cut strips crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide cookies.

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