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The Gorgeous Rainbow Cookie

November 30, 2009

In a season full of cookies — overloaded with cookies, even (though I might debate whether “overloaded” is a bad thing, especially where chocolate is concerned), I’d like you to meet the show-stopper cookie. The glam cookie. The gorgeous cookie. And you know what else? The positively delicious cookie.

Once a staple of Italian bakeries, this gem is a delicate confection of cakey almond goodness, apricot preserves and bittersweet chocolate — seven layers of cookie nirvana. Lucky is the person who can still walk around the corner and buy them on demand!

But let’s talk about you. Imagine a serving tray on your holiday dessert table artfully stacked with these sweet treats. Go ahead. Look at the picture again, and then close your eyes. Dozens of these cookies, piled high. Colorful. Playful. Teasing. And they tumble a little. And one falls off to the table below. Oh dear. But you’re in luck. SoupAddict believes in the 5-second rule. Go ahead and have that one. Just that one. Yes, that one, with all the almond and chocolate.

[snap! snap! hello?!]  Ready to make these Gourmet magazine delights yet? SoupAddict thought so. Let’s get started.

Eggs and butter, bay-bee. All good things start with eggs and butter. European butter? All the butter. I mean, better. (No, I meant butter.)
Separatin’ the eggs. Look how talented SoupAddict is: one-handed egg separation. Ha ha! As if. SoupAddict pulled the shell apart with two hands, and then transferred the whole kit and caboodle delicately to her very non-dominant left hand, where the whites quickly and mockingly dribbled out, leaving her left hand to cling desperately to the egg shell. Good thing SoupAddict’s right hand is quick as lightning with the camera, or this shot would not be, since SoupAddict waited until the last egg to take the picture.
Eggs successfully separated. SoupAddict’s left hand also managed to mangle the 4th yolk, which you can see pooled around the other three perfect, two-handed yolks. Brown eggs are so lovely. Don’t you just want to pinch their little yolkie cheeks?
I love my KitchenAid standmixer. I’m just sayin’.
Mmmm, sugar. Mmmm, All-Clad measuring cups. I love these measuring cups. They look exactly like my All-Clad pans—handles, rivets and all—so I can feel the All-Clad love even when I’m baking.
When KitchenAid and All-Clad team up to whip up some sugary egg whites, you can bet something good will come of it.
See? Look at those gorgeous egg whites. SoupAddict wants to crawl into the bowl and take a nap on those soft, puffy egg whites. But (a) SoupAddict is hopped up on frappuccinos and couldn’t nap if world peace depended on it, and (b) she’s pretty sure her only her elbow would fit in this bowl. (Her head fits, too. But SoupAddict is not going to tell you how she knows that.)
Every lazy girl’s kitchen should have two bowls for her stand mixer. That’s SoupAddict’s philosophy. “Beat the egg whites, transfer to another bowl, wash the mixing bowl for the batter.” Whaht! As if! Beat the egg whites. Do the switcheroo with the second bowl. Mix the batter. Washing dishes is for after all the baking fun is done. Or maybe the day after all the baking fun is done. Yeah, that’s the ticket. (Procrastination is also SoupAddict’s philosophy.)
Mmmmm, almond paste. I could eat this stuff right out of the can. But I won’t. Maybe just a taste. No, no, I promise, no. It’s all for the cookies. Yes, for the cookies. No. No.
Lean in close, my pretties. SoupAddict is going to share the secret that professional pastry chefs ’round the globe shudder for us mere mortals to learn: Ditch your imitation flavorings. “Do it now!” SoupAddict commands. Get up, go to your kitchen (SoupAddict will wait), gather up all of those half-empty bottles of chemical-y “Imitation Vanilla Extract” and “Imitation Almond Flavoring” and heave them into the trash. And shout, “You’re not worthy!” as they tumble bottom over cap into the darkness. If you want to improve your baking, the single best thing you can do is upgrade your ingredients, starting with the flavorings. SoupAddict uses the Lorrann brand of professional emulsions (except for Vanilla extract, where she uses Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste from Nielsen-Massey). Once you try these, you’ll never go back (believe it or not, Hobby Lobby carries Lorrann products, as does King Arthur Flour).
Okay, lecture over. The batter is batted, the egg whites are fluffed. Let’s get to work.
Folding egg whites that fluffly into batter that creamy takes patience. And a light touch. SoupAddict will definitely use her right hand to do this job. For the photo, SoupAddict’s right hand told her left hand to just hold the spatula upright. “Don’t move! Just hold it there.” [Click!] “Now, put the spatula down and back awaaay from the bowl, Left Hand!” When you think you can’t fold this stuff over even once more, it will all start coming together. Patience, Grasshopper. The pebble was not snatched from the hand in one day.
SoupAddict loves to color.
Divide the batter evenly into three bowls and break out your food coloring gels. You don’t need to use much—just a few swipes with a toothpick will do. This clear thingy is a Christmas toothpick leftover from last year’s appetizers. SoupAddict pulled one pick out of the box and then promptly knocked it off the counter, where the remaining toothpicks skittered across the floor, and came to a rest in all of their clearishness in various light-challenged places, like in the corners and under appliances. SoupAddict’s kitties are still pawing them out from under the stove days later.
The batter for these cookies has an unexpected advantage: it’s very stiff. SoupAddict does not have any two rimmed cookies sheets of the same size, and she’s far too lazy to bake the three cookie layers one at a time in the same pan. (Bake. Cool. Wash. Bake. Cool. Wash. Bake. Cool. Wash. [Sure]) So, SoupAddict used three different sized pans, lined with parchment paper, and simply spread the non-runny batter to the same sized rectangle in all three. (When you’re lazy, you have to be clever.) Gourmet would frown deeply in SoupAddict’s general direction over her choice of pans. You’ll do better, I’m sure.
The three cookie layers are glued together with a thin layer of lovely apricot preserves. Tip: the layer in this photo is too thick. You want thin, thin, thin. The layers will shortly be smooshed together for refrigeration, so a thin thin thin coat is all you need. Trust SoupAddict on this one. Otherwise, ooey-gooeyness will ensue. And not the good kind.
Five of the seven layers, assembled. So pretty, but you can see that ooey-gooey is already oozing out between the layers, and we haven’t even done any smooshing yet. Thin thin thin, go the apricot preserves.
Smooshing down the cookie layers while infusing them with the wisdom of Dorie Greenspan. SoupAddict has her moments of inspiration.
Valrhona chocolate. Please move ahead to the next picture. SoupAddict will have to catch up with you in a moment. Or two.
SoupAddict wants to crawl into this bowl and take a nap on the soft blanket of chocolate ganache. But (a) SoupAddict is still hopped up frappuccinos and (b) she knows even her head won’t fit into this bowl. (This is about the time that SoupAddict’s mother would crack, “Yes, that’s right, honey: a square head will not fit into a round bowl.” Ar ar ar.)
Layer 6 applied … back into the fridge to chill, so that we will be able to flip the whole thing over and apply the last heavenly Valrhonic layer. Meanwhile, SoupAddict resumes her fruitless search for the other 44 clear toothpicks she has yet to recover.
SoupAddict will not beat around the bush: these cookies are a trick to slice, my pretties. Mixing a bit of cream into the chocolate (thus producing a ganache, rather than just tempered chocolate) helps, but cracking is still a threat. Rumor has it that the colder the cookie slab—frozen, even—the easier it is to slice, crack-free. But SoupAddict must deliver these cookies to her mother, the comedian, and does not have time to freeze the slab. On the right, the first full cut was done with a thin chef’s knife while the cookie slab was still slightly chilled. Despite her best efforts with her right hand, small chocolate chunks broke off. No good. The remaining slices to the left were done with the same thin chef’s knife, but heated under hot running water and wiped dry. Worked like a charm. Wipe the blade with a clean paper towel between each slice; reheat the knife after every two or three slices.
Uh oh. A cookie with cracked chocolate. Well, we’ll just have to pluck that one right out of there, now, won’t we? Yes [chomp] indeedy [nom nom].
Gorgeous. Delicious.
Gourmet, even.
Rainbow Cookies (a.k.a. Seven-Layer Cookies, a.k.a. Tri-Color Cookies)
Gourmet, December 2005
  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

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.

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.

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.

Fold half of egg white mixture into almond mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

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).

Bake red layer 8 to 10 minutes, until just set. (It is important to undercook.)

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.

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.

Cover with plastic wrap and weight with a large baking pan. Chill at least 8 hours.

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.

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.

Cooks’ note: Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks.

SoupAddict’s notes:

  • Don’t use wax paper – use parchment paper. It’s readily available and brilliant.
  • The batter, as mentioned, is stiff. Spreading the batter in the pan will cause the parchment to slide all around in a most annoying manner. Buttering it isn’t going to help much. I take a dab of the dough and use two blobs to anchor each end of the parchment paper into the pan. You’ll have to wash the pan, but it works great.
  • I don’t usually bother to refrigerate each separate layer before assembly. It does help set the layer, but it’s not required, and will cut down overall time considerably. Do refrigerate once you assemble the three layers with the apricot glue, though. It will ensure the layers stick together as they should.
  • If you don’t want to bake the layers one at a time, don’t. I prepare all three layers in their own pans (I even use cheapie foil pans) at the same time, then bake the red and white layers together. While the red and white layers cool a bit, I bake the green layer. While the green layer cools, I spread the apricot glue on the red layer and lay over the white. And finally, one last layer of apricot goodness, and plop the green layer on top.
  1. December 1, 2009 11:01 am

    Wow, you make it look possible…might attempt this gorgeous deliciousness next week…thank you for the inspiration!!

  2. December 1, 2009 3:57 pm

    This post is hilarious. I love it. And the cookies are show stopping, but I don’t know if I can bring myself to cook with food coloring.

  3. December 1, 2009 9:47 pm

    I have the same All-Clad measuring cups, and I also love that they look just like my pots and pans! Your cookies look absolutely gorgeous. Love the beautiful colors!

  4. December 1, 2009 10:55 pm

    Your cookies are so original! thanks for sharing 🙂

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