Tag Archives: Cookie Recipes

{ Italian Seven Layer Cookies }

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I come from a long lineage of family bakers. Cream and sugar are literally coded in my DNA.

And when I was growing up, the holidays signified one thing: cookie season! I would come home from school and my mom would have magazine clippings for cookie recipes that she wanted to try out at one of her infamous cookie exchanges. Given that it was not warm enough to play outside, she would encourage my sister and I to help her sift the flour, roll out the dough, and dip/glaze/sprinkle the tops of cookies in an effort to keep us from turning on the television (or the ‘boob-tube’ as it was referred to in my house!). Of course, we were always more more than happy to oblige!

We would make dozens of spritz cookies, sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, chocolate chip cookies, pecan tassies, mixed nut turtles, and traditional Hungarian kiffles. But the one cookie we never made, was ironically the one that was my favorite–the Italian seven layer cookie.

Whenever I would spot these in a party tray assortment, I would pick them out, stuff them in a napkin, and then scurry away to eat them by my lonesome. I was–and still am–an Italian cookie fein and hoarder.

This year, I decided to make my own seven layer cookies using the recipe printed in Gourmet, December 2005, and since them endorsed by The Smitten Kitchen food blog. I will admit that they were quite laborious and involved to make, but since they can be frozen in large blocks, I will have them to enjoy/gift over the next few months (or weeks, depending on my level of self-control!).

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{ Ingredients }

  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 (8 oz) can of almond paste
  • 2 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 25 drops red food coloring
  • 25 drops green food coloring
  • 1 (12 oz) jar of apricot preserves, heated and strained
  • 7 oz of good-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), roughly chopped

{ To Make Italian 7-layer Cookies }

Place oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan and line bottom with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two of the ends, then butter paper.

Beat egg whites in mixer fitted with whisk attachment at medium-high speed until they just hold stiff peaks. Add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating at high speed until whites hold stiff, slightly glossy peaks. Transfer to another bowl.

Switch to paddle attachment, then beat together almond paste and remaining 3/4 cup sugar until well blended, about 3 minutes. Add butter and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks and almond extract and beat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, then add flour and salt and mix until just combined.

Fold half of egg white mixture into almond mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter among 3 bowls. Stir red food coloring into one and green food coloring into another, leaving the third batch plain. Set the white batter aside. Cover the green batter with plastic wrap and chill in fridge.  Pour the red batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with offset spatula (layer will be about 1/4 inch thick).

Bake red layer 8 to 10 minutes, until just set. (It is important to undercook. They’ll look like they’re not done, but a tester does come out clean.)

Using the paper overhang, transfer the layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean pan, then line with parchment or wax paper and butter paper in same manner as above. Bake white layer in prepared pan until just set. As white layer bakes, bring green batter to room temperature. Transfer white layer to a rack. Prepare pan as above, then bake green layer in same manner as before. Transfer to a rack to cool (see note #1).

When all layers are cool, invert green layer onto a parchment or wax-paper-lined baking sheet. Discard paper from layer and spread half of the apricot preserves on top. Invert white layer on top of green layer, discarding paper. Spread with remaining apricot preserves. Finally, invert the red layer on top of white layer and discard wax or parchment paper (see note #2).

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Cover entire “layer-cake” with plastic wrap and weight down with a large baking pan (I stacked cook books on mine for extra weight!). Chill for at least 8 hours. BE PATIENT!

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Remove weight and plastic wrap. Bring layers to room temperature. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Keep chocolate over the hot water.

Trim edges of assembled layers with a long serrated knife so they are clean lines. Quickly spread half of chocolate in a thin layer on top of cake. Chill, uncovered, until chocolate is firm, about 15 minutes. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and place another baking sheet on top, then invert cake onto sheet and remove paper. Quickly spread with remaining chocolate. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Cut lengthwise into desired number of strips, depending on the size and number of cookies that you want to yield. I cut mine into 10 I believe.   Cut strips crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide cookies  (see note #3).

**Do ahead: Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks. They’ll keep even longer in the freezer.

Three important notes:

Note #1Don’t stack the cakes during the cooling process: Not because they crush each other (they won’t) or because they’ll stick (they don’t), but because that paper liner is greased on both sides from baking and the chocolate shell won’t quite stick right to exterior of the red layer because of the grease accidentally left on it.

Note #2Be careful dividing your jam: If there is too much jam between one of the layers, it will ooze out when you cut the cake with a serrated knife. Sadly, the cookie will fall apart.

Note #3They’re easier to cut when frozen: Nevertheless, they tasted amazingly and I was all ready to do a victory lap around my wee kitchen counter, however, when I got to cutting them up and then it all went south. People, these were trying to cut. The problem lies within the differing textures of the layers — the top hard chocolate shell more benefits from a sharp serrated knife (a regular, even very sharp knife will crack the edges when you press down on it), the same serrated knife that gets gummed with jam and tries to pull the soft cake layers in between apart. It was exasperating. It didn’t go well. I packed up some for a party and stuffed the rest in the freezer, only to discover the next day that these cut fantastically when frozen. Seriously. Trust me. I have the gummy floor and gray hairs to prove it.

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