Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ribbon Layer Cookies

We're friends, right? And friends share secrets, right? Well... here's a secret I'd like to share with you, dear friends:

Christmas is my favorite holiday.

Not a very exciting secret, is it? Let's try that again. Here's another one:

I have failed miserably at being Christmas-y this year!

I know, it's awful. We only just put lights up on the house a couple of days ago, and put the tree up a couple days before that, not to mention I only started on Christmas cookies yesterday! I should be fired.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that today is actually Christmas (Merry Christmas, by the way!) and it's probably a little too late to consider any more cookie recipes, I'm giving you one anyway. If all else fails, you can save this one for next year! It also just happens to be my favorite Christmas cookie ever, in case you were wondering.

In my family, these are called Ribbon Layer Cookies, but if you do a quick Google search, you'll find they're called all sorts of things, from "Rainbow Cookies" to "7-Layer Cookies," although this version is actually only six layers, but who's counting? The other thing I love about these is that you can really use any color combination you want, which means you don't have to limit them to the holiday season! You could do red, white, and blue for the 4th of July, for example, or... pink, yellow, and white for Easter? Are those Easter colors? I don't even know. 

I do have to admit that these are a bit time-consuming to make, but the good news is that most of that time is spent sleeping (or staying up really late and watching episodes of "Brothers and Sisters" on Netflix... not that I do that). I have also noticed that canned almond paste is sometimes hard to come by, but fear not! I have included an easy recipe for homemade almond paste, which works just as well as the canned stuff -- I've used both, and they have turned out deliciously either way.

Here's the recipe! Let me know if you try these amazing bites of yummy!

Ribbon Layer Cookies
Makes one 9x13" pan, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 8 oz. almond paste, canned or homemade (see recipe below)
  • 1 C sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 C flour
  • red and green food coloring (gel or liquid)
  • 6-8 Tbs raspberry jam
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 2 C powdered sugar
  • 3-6 Tbs hot coffee
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Blend together the almond paste, sugar, and eggs. Mix in 1 1/2 C butter and almond extract. When the mixture is smooth and all ingredients have been incorporated, mix in the flour.

2. Divide the batter into 3 equal parts, approximately 1 3/4 C of batter in each bowl. Leave one bowl naturally colored, while you dye one bowl red and the other green.

3. Bake each batter color separately, in a 9x13" baking dish lined with wax paper. Spread the allotted batter thinly and evenly in the baking dish (an offset spatula is really helpful here), and bake for 15 minutes each. Lift out the waxed paper-lined cakes and cool on a wire rack. I recommend baking and cooling in the order of assembly: green, then white, then red.

4. Assembly: Place the green layer of cake on a foil-covered cookie sheet that has been turned upside down. Spread approximately 2-3 Tbs of raspberry jam evenly on the cake layer. Next, place the white layer on top of the jam and cover with another 2-3 Tbs of jam. Lastly, place the red layer on top. Cover with foil or wax paper, followed by a second cookie sheet. Weigh down the layers with two 28-oz. cans or something similar. Refrigerate overnight.

5. Icing (the next morning): In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate and 2 Tbs butter. Whisk in powdered sugar and slowly add the hot coffee until smooth. Cool lightly before pouring/spreading over the top of the cake. Allow the chocolate layer to set up about 30 minutes, then cut into 1-inch squares. These will go quickly, so don't worry about making the bites too small!

Homemade Almond Paste
Makes 1/2 lb. (8 oz.)
  • 1/2 lb almonds (slivered works really well, unless you want to blanch your own whole almonds)
  • 1/2 of a 16-oz package of powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
1. Make sure your almonds are dry, especially if you blanch them first, and then grind them in a blender or food processor. Thoroughly mix in the powdered sugar.

2. Beat the egg whites slightly, then stir into the almond mixture. Add almond extract, using your hands to blend the heavy mixture. Add to recipe.

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