This cookie doesn’t know from rainbows. Still, we made it. Why? Because we’re the kind of people whose favorite ice cream flavor is Neapolitan. Because brazen use of food coloring is pretty. Because we were putting off all the bagel making we had to do today. Because we have inherited trauma (that’s a thing) from Helen Fine (Nana) being an early adopter of Weight Watchers. Because they’re a little bit trendy lately. Because this Italian-American pseudo-cookie has long been a staple of Jewish-American bakeries and that’s our jam.
Rainbow cookies are a dense, almond-paste-based layered sponge. They’re pink and green and yellowish-white. They’re old-fashioned but not out-of-date. We didn’t have a recipe on hand because these fall into the category of “store-bought” things. In our house, the only reason to waste money on store-bought things was because it was impossible to make ourselves. (Store-bought: Bisquik, Whisky Sour Powder, and Pinesol. Homemade: Toothpaste, potatoes, and haircuts). Of course, that usually meant that the store-bought thing in question was a waste of money and therefor out of the question, especially when it came to cookies. As far as cookies were concerned, “store-bought” was code for “junk you eat at your father’s house.” Don’t be fooled by our post about Hydrox Cookies.
Looking back, rainbow cookies are definitely the kind of cookie the paying adult would always preface with, “Are you sure you’re going to like that? I don’t think you’re going to like it. It doesn’t have any chocolate chips. I’ll get it for you but you have to eat it.” They were always right and yet we never learned the important lesson that most of those Italian cookies have something nasty like almond or anise extract that we weren’t going to develop a taste for until we hit 30. Well, we’ve hit thirty. So here goes. Rainbow cookies.
First thing you’re gonna need is almond paste. Almond paste isn’t marzipan. We’re pretty sure you can still mold it into miniature cats and pears and dolphins or stuff it into a Ritter Sport, but the internet swears that a great way to mess up your rainbow cookies is to barge ahead and substitute marzipan. So here’s how you make almond paste if you can’t find any in the store.
Ground almonds 1 1/2 cups
Powdered Sugar 1 1/2 cups
1 egg white
splash of almond extract
Toss that all in a food processor and let it rip for about a minute. Look. You made almond paste.
Now onto the cookies. The recipe we used is from Lidia Bastianich of Lidia’s Italian Kitchen, one of the television shows you could watch without cable on PBS in 1995 while fixating on all the store bought cookies the kids next door were probably eating at that very moment. We summarized it below:
225g almond paste
280g softened butter
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 tsp salt
250g chopped dark chocolate
In a mixer, beat almond paste with 2/3cup plus 2 tbsp sugar until the mixture is “fine crumbles.” Beat in the softened butter and then egg yolks, one at a time. Now add the two cups of flour and salt and mix well. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites and 2tbsp sugar to stiff peaks and then gently fold into the batter.Separate the batter equally into three bowls. Leave one bowl plain as that will be your yellowish layer. In the other bowls, go to town with the food coloring. Quantity can vary depending on your attraction to artifice. Now spread out the batter thin in three lined pans. Put in a preheated 175c oven for 10 minutes.When the layers are baked and cooled, stack them on top of eachother with a thin layer of apricot jam as glue. Some recipes suggest pressing the top down with a weighted pan for up to 24 hours. This will give you an even denser cookie. When the layers are assembled, melt your chocolate and spread on top. Let this harden and begin slicing your cookies. Keep hot water nearby and a cloth and clean your knife between slices. Now you have rainbow cookies. See? Not cookies. Not rainbows. You just spent the last two hours making striped cake. Or you can just do this.
Post Rainbow Cookie Post feedback from Helen Fine (Nana):
I just saw your thing about rainbow cookies. Nana Klemens made rainbow jelly-rolls all the time. It was her signature kind of thing. Had a big jelly roll pan and would split the batter in 3 sections and color them and pour it in strips and then slather on jam and roll it up so that each piece had pink, yellow and green in each slice. I had forgotten all about it. She also made what she called onion rolls and you describe as bialy. They were small rolls with chopped onion in the center depression.
Anyway, it just brought back a lot of memories…….