Seven-layer cookies (or rainbow cookies, as I prefer to call them) have always been one of my favorite kinds of cookie. You may occasionally see them in the grocery store, but don’t be fooled—the good ones really only come from Italian bakeries. But not anymore, seeing as I have mastered the art of the rainbow cookie myself! I found the recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, smitten kitchen. Since I’ve had a lot of free time lately, I decided to do something daring and give these cookies a try. Below is the recipe and a few photos. My recipe notes are in bold!
Mise en place: “everything in place.”
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 (7-oz) tube 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
1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13″x9″ baking pan (butter is advised over butter spray because it helps the paper stay in place while you spread the batter into the pan) and line bottom with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 ends, then butter paper.
2. Beat egg 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 (I used my trusty food scale to ensure that it was equally divided). Stir red food coloring into one and green food coloring into another, leaving the third batch plain. Set white batter aside. Chill green batter. Pour red batter into prepared pan and spread evenly with offset spatula (I used the back of a spoon and didn’t have much trouble).
6. Bake red layer 8 to 10 minutes, until just set. It is important to undercook. They’ll look like they’re not done, but a tester does come out clean.
7. Using paper overhang, transfer layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean pan, then line with parchment or 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 parchment or wax-paper-lined 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 or parchment paper. (Inverting the layers on top of each other was definitely the hardest part and almost ended in disaster!)
9. Cover with plastic wrap and weight with a large baking pan. Chill at least 8 hours.
10. Remove weight and plastic wrap. Bring layers to room temperature. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Keep chocolate over water. (I made more of a ganache, and also added about 1/4 cup of light cream to the chocolate. Numerous comments on this recipe complained of the chocolate coating cracking when being cut, which I wanted to avoid. This alteration worked well.)
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.
12. Cut lengthwise into 4 strips Cut strips crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide cookies (I think I made mine bigger).
Much to my surprise, they came out beautifully and taste amazing. If I could do one thing differently, I would have bought a bigger jar of apricot preserves—the recipe calls for 12 oz and I mistakingly bought a 10 oz jar. I’m sure it didn’t make a huge difference, but it would have been nice to perhaps have a little bit more jam between the layers. That said, while these were pretty time consuming, they definitely delivered. I’ll probably make them again during the holidays!