Taste the Arcobaleno (That’s "rainbow" in Italian)

Before I wax poetic about the topic of this post, I’m going to be honest.  When I first had Italian rainbow cookies (aka tri color cookies, aka tri colore), I did not like them.  My palate was young and foolish…it did not know the error of its ways.  Particularly, it did not have an appreciation for the flavor of almond.  I liked almonds as whole nuts, but I did not like the flavor of almond extract.  I found its taste to be a little unsettling — to me, it was a little but of nutty, a little bit of flowery…and then it was also sweet.  Even bordering on buttery, if I really think about it…

Anyway, somehow along the way I developed an affinity for those almond cookies they sometimes give you when you order Chinese takeout, along with fortune cookies.  Maybe it was one of those rare times when my mom didn’t have any other cookies in the house, and I was driven by desperation into the arms of these almond-laden confections.  And then she’d sometimes buy the Italian butter cookies from Costco, which also contained traces of almond…  You see, I just couldn’t escape it.  And if you can’t beat ’em?  Eat ’em, of course!  And eventually I learned to like almond flavoring in my baked goods.

After reading my post on the black and white cookie, a friend mentioned that she’d been wanting to try making Italian rainbow cookies, another regular in the New York City cookie scene.  We were going to make them together, but when we saw that making these cookies required overnight refrigeration, we decided that we just didn’t have that much time, especially if one of us was going to come over the other’s place and walk away empty-handed while the cookies chilled in the other’s fridge.  There was the problem of how both of us would be able to taste the results of our labor when one of us lives in New Jersey, and can’t just easily pop to Astoria and get some samples.  So we changed our plan and decided to do another project instead, but even those plans changed and this new project would be postponed till next weekend.  Hey, life happens and one has to be flexible.

No longer having a project for this weekend, I decided to tackle this Italian rainbow cookie on my own.  And I can’t decide whether it was better or worse that we didn’t work on this together, because had we worked together, we might have saved time (one of us could have beaten the egg whites to stiff peaks while the other mixed the other part of the dough), but on the other hand we might have gotten in each others’ way since I have such a small kitchen and so much clutter can be produced depending on the project…

But anyway…pictures of the journey:

The dough, after the addition of green food coloring.

My three layers, all baked and ready to assemble.  My living room becomes part of the war zone when baking…

All assembled, with fillings of raspberry preserves and apricot preserves and covered in a nice blanket of plastic wrap and tucked in to its refrigerator “bed” to sleep overnight…

The next day, pre-grooming (before evening out the edges by cutting them off with a knife)


And you know how it all turns out because basically I started the pictorial with what would be called “The End” if this were an actual story.

The recipe is widely found on the internet, and I find that most of them are more or less the same.  Same measurements, ingredients, etc.  However, if you go and find one off the internet, here are a couple of tweaks I read about —

  • Some people used almond filling as opposed to almond paste.  I can only guess that this was because (and this is a guess) almond filling is easier to work with in terms of manual stirring (folding the egg white into the stiff dough was quite the arm workout!).  I’m guessing that almond filling is much softer than almond paste, which isn’t really “paste”, per se.  When I think paste, I think the soft stuff you can squeeze out of a tube.  The almond paste I got came in a can and needed breaking apart with a fork…
  • Which leads me to tweak #2.  Instead of using a fork to break apart the almond paste, I saw a recipe that instructed you to use a food processor to process the sugar with the almond paste until you had a fine mixture.  I didn’t do this (since the recipe I used just basically had you throw the butter, sugar, egg yolks and almond paste into a bowl and beat until light and fluffy), and so I had a few clumps of almond paste in my dough.  No clumps of almond paste, smoother cake.
  • Instead of using 3 separate pans, it’s okay to just use one over and over for each layer.  I’m not sure why it’s better, but I listened to someone who had a lot of experience making these cookies and she said it was just better to re-use the same pan 3 times.
  • Last but not least, add almond extract if the recipe you happen to be using does not include it!  I added 1 teaspoon to mine and the flavor of almond was pleasantly amplified.

That all being said, I’m glad I made these this past weekend, despite the labor-intensiveness.  It’s worth it to have these cute little things sitting in the fridge, waiting to be eaten.  Sometimes I think it’s enough to just look at them to cheer me up during this gray stretch of weather that we’re having — but that thought is always overridden when I pop one in my mouth and realize that no, it’s actually better when you eat them too.

3 thoughts on “Taste the Arcobaleno (That’s "rainbow" in Italian)

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