Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sasha's Kitchen: Tri-Colored Classic Rainbow Cookies

Ahhh, rainbow cookies. These tri-colored, almond flavored cookies in the traditional pink, green and yellow colors have long been my favorite baked goods. I have been eating these since I was a kid. In my experience, Jewish bakeries and Italian bakeries will make the very best rainbow cookies. I always thought they were a Jewish tradition, but they are really Italian, and are supposed to represent the Italian flag. You can find some delicious rainbow cookies in either Brooklyn or in Manhattan's Little Italy. They're addictive and delicious, and a long-held favorite of mine. In fact, I have loved these cookies for so long, I have even received a couple of rainbow cookie birthday cakes over the years. A couple years ago, I found a great recipe for making my own rainbow cookies. I have pretty much perfected it at this point, where my cookies are bakery quality gems. This is a great and impressive dessert to bring to a party, so I wanted to share these cookies and the process to make them here. For me, these bring back memories of my childhood, since they have long been my favorite dessert.

My recipe for these cookies is derived from a 2007 edition of Gothamist article. It is a very well written piece that details a bit of the history of these cookies. I love the part where they quote the Princess Bride (one of my favorite movies)  in describing how Little Italy is mixed with Chinatown ("Never get involved in a land war in Asia") in New York. Also, I have not yet tried the rainbow cookies at Isaac's Bake Shop in Midwood (pretty far out in Brooklyn) but I do plan to make the trek out there to try them.

Rainbow Cookies
12 ounces almond paste (careful, this is not the same thing as marzipan)
1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 C granulated sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
Green and red food coloring
1/4 C seedless raspberry preserves
1/2 C apricot preserves
15 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

The first step in making these delicious and colorful cookies is making the three layers.  It is easier than you probably think it would be. Use three 12 x 8 baking pans and spray with PAM or line with parchment paper (I've always used the PAM to be honest, and it works). Grate the almond paste in your food processor. In the basin of a KitchenAid Mixer, mix the butter on medium-low speed until smooth using the paddle attachment. Increase to medium-high and add the almond paste. Beat until lighter in color, for about two minutes. Pour in the sugar and beat for another minute. Next, add the four egg yolks and vanilla and beat well to combine. Reserve the egg yolks in a bowl for the next step.  Combine the salt and flour, and slowly add to the dough in thirds, before setting aside.

In a separate bowl, with an egg mixer, beat the egg whites on high speed for about four minutes until nice and fluffy, like if you were making a souffle. You can add a bit of cream of tartar. If you remove the other stuff from before from the mixer, you can do this in your KitchenAid using the whisk attachment.

Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the mixture. This is a bit tough and may take some work and time. The dough is pretty thick and dense so it is difficult to fold in the egg whites, but it can be done with a bit of effort. 

Next, divide the batter into thirds. Leave one bowl plain and dye the other two with red and green food coloring respectively. Grocery store quality food colors work perfectly for this recipe to get the colors right, rather than the fancy gel ones that I usually use with cupcakes.

Spread the layers into each of the three pans, evenly. This takes a bit of time to spread each perfectly evenly and they will seem like they are very thin, which is just fine. My husband has a lot of patience for this, so he does this part.

Bake the layers for 10-15 minutes until the layers are firm to the touch and are just the slightest bit brown. Obviously, you do not want to let the layers brown, and they are done when they are firm, and only the slightest bit brown around the edges.

Flip each layer gently out of the pan (after you allow it to cool) onto a piece of plastic wrap. This takes a bit of practice so as to keep the layers in tact. Take the green layer and spread with the raspberry jam and add the yellow layer on top of that. Then spread that layer with the apricot jam and add the pink layer on top of that. Press the layers for 15 minutes with a really heavy book, like the Beatles Anthology. Then seal the surface with a layer of apricot jam that you bring to a boil with 2 T of water. Allow to set for a half an hour.

To make the tempered chocolate, melt the chocolate using a double boiler. If you do not have one, you can use a metal bowl inside a large pot of boiling water. You will want to finely chop the chocolate before doing this, or use chocolate chips like I do. As the chocolate warms, stir until the chocolate is fully melted. But don't allow it to cook further, boil or otherwise change in chemical composition. Spread on the top and sides of the rainbow cookie layers. Allow to cool for an hour in the refrigerator and then slice into cookies. 



  1. Yours came out with great layers! Love your color choices.

  2. These cookies look fantastic. You did a super job. I'm starting a new linky on my blog this Saturday called "Sweets for a Saturday." I'd like to invite you to come by and link these up.

  3. Strange that they would call them cookies when it looks like cake. Regardless, makes me want to go search for them in Little Italy for a taste.


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