Seven-Layer Almond Cookies
On Sunday we got back from a pretty great ten-day trip to Spain. We ate until our bellies hurt, walked so much I put holes in five pairs of socks and had a blast soaking up the beauty of one of my favorite countries. As I’m still sifting through the nearly 2,000 photos, I thought I’d clear out my recipe back-log in the meantime!
A number of weeks ago I was reading the Washington Post and they had this little feature about all the best things to buy at an Italian shop/deli in DC called A. Litteri. I went to this deli once after having read about it before, and it was not exactly a delightful experience. I got a little lost walking there from the metro, and it’s not the kind of neighborhood you want to get lost in. I was so stressed out and hot by the time I got there, I couldn’t really even enjoy the store. Next time I go, I’m definitely driving.
Anyhow, back to the WaPo article, one of the things they mentioned where Italian seven-layer cookies that sounded really good. Rather than actually venture to the store again, I decided I’d just make them myself!
First of all, these cookies are not exactly like the ones described in the article, and they are actually six layers, not seven. They are also a super-huge pain in the butt to make. They are also, however, extremely tasty! These cookies are worth the trouble if you’re having guests because they look really pretty and they do taste really good (if you’re not allergic to nuts).
The different layers have to be baked individually and I baked the green layer first. As I brought it out the oven it looked, well, kind of weird and I started to worry. I worried a lot, actually, because 1) these ingredients were expensive and 2) I’m a bit of worrier anyways. Luckily my worrying was for naught because the other layers turned out better (I have no idea what went wrong with only the green layer…) and since they are layered on top of each other and then covered in chocolate, you really can’t see what went wrong!
I found that there wasn’t enough batter to fully coat the whole bottom of the baking pan, so I spread it as thin as I could and just trimmed the edges once I’d stack the layers. I think this works well because that way your edges are cleaner. It is important to weigh the layers down when you are letting them rest because otherwise the layers won’t stick together. The flavor of the apricot preserves is mild and helps to keep the layers together, so I wouldn’t get rid of it. You could, however, try using raspberry jam or the like if you don’t like apricot.
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.