Rainbow Cookies (Venetians)

Rainbow cookies, also called ‘Venetians,’ are among my favorites, and I make them every Christmas. Actually more like tri-colored almond cakes, they are delicious and look very festive on a cookie tray. When I was a girl we would buy them in Italian pastry shops. They were good, but these are much better. The homemade version is more moist and more intensely flavored. Bakeries tend to use bright colors, but I prefer to make them in softer pastels. The recipe is adapted from Gourmet Magazine (December 1999). They take time to make, but are worth the effort. I have tried freezing them, but I think they have better taste and texture when eaten fresh. Also, the dough cannot be made ahead.

Rainbow Cookies (Venetians)
3/4 c. almond paste (canned)
1 c. sugar
1-1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
4 large room temperature eggs, separated
1 tsp. almond extract
2 c. sifted flour (sift before measuring)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
2-3 drops green food coloring
2-3 drops red food coloring
1 c. apricot jam or Solo Brand Apricot Filling (or raspberry)
3/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. or more heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10×10 or 9×13 pan. Heat the pan in the oven for just a minute to warm it, then line the pan with a large sheet of wax paper to hang over the edges so you can lift it out easily. (Warming the pan slightly makes the wax paper stick better). Set aside. Whip egg whites in a mixer until they just hold stiff peaks. Set egg whites aside. In a food processor bowl combine almond paste and sugar. Pulse until smooth with no lumps, then transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl. Add butter and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks and almond extract, beat well. Add sifted flour and salt, then stir in one third of the beaten egg whites to lighten the almond mixture (the batter will be thick). Fold in the rest of the egg whites. Divide dough into 3 bowls of roughly 1 c. each. Leave one bowl of batter plain. Dye one batter with 2-3 drops red food coloring until light pink. Dye the third batter with green food coloring just until light green. Spread the green batter into the prepared wax paper-lined pan. The batter will be thin. Bake for 7-10 minutes until cake is set and light golden at the edges, but do not let it brown. Remove pan from the oven and lift the layer by the wax paper onto a baking rack. Let cool. While the green layer is cooling, line the still-warm 10×10 pan with another layer of wax paper and spread with plain color batter. Bake 7-10 minutes. Remove that cake layer to a rack and repeat with the pink batter. When cake layers are cool, remove the wax paper from them. Clean the 10×10 pan and line with fresh wax or parchment paper. Place green cake layer back into the pan. Spread with 1/2 cup apricot jam. Place white cake layer over green layer. Spread with remaining apricot jam. Top with pink cake layer. Weigh down with another pan of about the same size and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill 4 hours. Combine cream and chocolate in a double boiler and heat on the stove until chocolate is melted. Stir until smooth. Unwrap cake layers and spread chocolate over the top but not the sides. Let stand at room temperature until set – about 1 hour. Chill, wrapped, until ready to serve. Then cut into small squares or diamonds. I think the cookies benefit from a day in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to mature before serving. Makes 3-4 dozen cookies.

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