Sunday, January 4, 2009
These favorites were made back on Christmas Eve/Christmas. I've made them consistently for Christmas a few years running now. They are all over the place in New York Italian bakeries, but here in Florida, they're rather scarce. Even when you do find them here, they're just not the same. When done right, they are moist, almondy, dense, and super, super delicious. Even those who don't like almond, chocolate, or jelly in their desserts love these cookies. The reason I don't make them more often is that they are a heckkk of a lot of work. This year though, with my new food processor, and my new set of 3 rectangular 9x13 cake pans with square corners, they were a leeeettle bit easier... though they still took hours and hours over the course of 2 days. The end result, though, is always worth it.
8 ounces almond paste*
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white granulated sugar
4 eggs separated
2 cups all purpose flour
red, green, and yellow food coloring
1/2 C seedless strawberry jelly**
1 C semisweet chocolate chips
*Almond paste is common ingredient in Italian desserts, but if you are unlucky like me and your area either doesn't carry it at all, or only carries 7 ounce tubes, rather than waste another whole container just to get that one extra ounce...this can substitute for that missing ounce: slightly less than 3 tablespoons (a little less than a quarter cup) of blanched slivered almonds ground to a paste with 2 teaspoons sugar.
**Not the traditional flavor, but it’s what I like to use...also usually the kind I have on hand is of the chunky variety so I just run it through the food processor first.
Grease (3) 9x13x2 pans (preferably not the glass kind, like pyrex, that are rounded at the corners. Square cornered pans are better.) then line with pans with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper.
In a large bowl, break up the almond paste with a fork. (WHEW, I have learned from experience that this is ARDUOUS and takes a LONG time. Now, I put the grater blade into my food processor and break it up real quick.) In an electric mixer, cream together the almond paste, the butter, sugar, and egg yolks. When fluffy and smooth, stir in the flour.
In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form and then fold them in to the dough.
Divide the dough into 3 equal parts. Tint each a different color: red, green and yellow. Spread into the prepared pans so that it evenly coats the entire pan (this takes a while).
Bake 10 – 12 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. Remove paper with cookies from pan and allow to cool.
Place green layer on a big sheet of plastic wrap large enough to cover all the layers when they are stacked. Fit it into a 9 x 13 cookie sheet. Spread jelly to taste – you do not want too much, or your layers will slide apart from each other. Generally, 1/2 c should be enough for the entire recipe. Top jelly coated green layer with the yellow layer. Spread jelly.
Top with red layer.
See all the layers so nicely stacked?
Cover all the layers with the oversized piece of plastic wrap and seal around the edges.
Put a cutting board, or a baking sheet on top of it with some weights on top to flatten it down over night in the frig. (I just put whatever happens to be in my frig at the moment on top of the cookie sheet or cake pan that I put on top of my cookies... water bottles, a half gallon of milk, a jar of pickles, anything. Spread the weight out so it is distributed evenly.)
Remove sheet from frig and remove plastic. Top a double boiler with the chocolate chips. When completely smooth, spread on to the top of the red layer, spreading all the way to the edges.
Before it sets, generously cover with chocolate sprinkles and lightly press down with your fingers through plastic wrap.
Refrigerate until chocolate it firm and then cut. ENJOY!!