Blog Checking Lines: Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us.
Christmas season, or cookie season as I like to think of it, is heaven for a baker. This time of year we are given permission to bake our little hearts out and calories don’t count. I was thrilled to see that this month’s challenge was holiday cookies. November is early enough not to be burned out on baking and still close enough to the holidays to be able to get a head start on the cookies I give out as gifts.
Peta thoughtfully gave us 12 Days of Cookies to bake up, but thankfully we were only required to try one of them plus one additional celebration cookie. I didn’t have the freezer space to make all 12 unfortunately, but I did make one that I’d wanted to try for a long time plus a new one that caught my eye recently. The cookie from Peta’s recipes that I most wanted to make is the 7 Layer Cookies, which are also known as Rainbow Cookies. Every year I have intended to make these, but they are a little involved and by the time my gift baking is done I haven’t had the energy and then I forget all about them until the next year. Finally, I have made them! The flavor gets better and better with each day on these so they are the perfect make-ahead holiday cookie. I was quite happily eating them a full two weeks after I made them (I decided not to give these away). I kept them refrigerated although they’re fine at room temperature for a few days.
7 Layer Christmas Cookies are composed of almond flavored layers in three different colors, white, green and red. The batter is similar to a thick cake batter and is and divided into three and colored and baked individually in a rectangular baking pan. Once cooled, the layers are stuck together with apricot jam and weighted down with another pan and some cans and allowed to sit in the refrigerator for several hours. When firm and stuck together, the rectangular three layer block is spread top and underside with melted chocolate. After the chocolate is set, the block is cut into little squares or rectangles. The recipe we used was modified from one on the Smitten Kitchen blog. There are some very nice step-by-step photos on Smitten Kitchen, which is good because my camera batteries were dead when I was making these cookies.
For my second celebration cookie, I made Chocolate, Hazelnut and Caramel Thumbprint Cookies from Better Homes and Gardens. I had come across these cookies a week or two prior to getting the November baking challenge and they were high on my list of cookies to make this season. For these cookies, a rich chocolate dough is formed into balls, rolled in egg white and then toasted and chopped hazelnuts. Just before baking, the dough is indented with a thumbprint in the middle of the cookie. After removing the cookies from the oven, the indentation is reinforced with a tsp. measure while still hot and then the cookie is allowed to cool. While the cookies cool, a simple caramel sauce is made by melting caramel with some whipping cream. The sauce is spooned into the indentations and allowed to set up. Once set, the cookies are topped with some melted chocolate and a single toasted hazelnut. These cookies were really delicious and look very special without being too hard to make. How can you go wrong with chocolate, hazelnut and caramel?
Check out all 12 Days of Cookies here.
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 1½ cups (350 gm) (12⅓ oz) sugar, divided
- 1 cup (125 gm) (4½ oz) almond meal
- 1¼ cups 9300gm) (10 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract (or brandy or rum extract)
- 2 cups (280gm) (10 oz) all purpose flour
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. red food coloring
- 1 Tbsp. green food coloring
- 1 cup (12 oz) apricot jam, headed and strained
- 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (200gm) (7oz) fine-quality bittersweet chocolate
- 1 tsp. unsalted butter
- 1 tsp. sugar
- Put an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat at 350F/180C/gas mark 4.
- Line a 9x13 inch (33cm x 23cm) baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2 inch overhang on 2 ends.
- Beat the egg whites in a mixer with the whisk attachment at medium-high speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add ¼ cup sugar a little at a time, beating at high speed until the whites hold just stiff, slightly glossy peaks. Put this in another bowl as you'll need the mixer bowl for the next step.
- Switch to the paddle attachment, then beat together the ground almonds, butter and the remaining sugar until it is pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, vanilla and almond extract and beat until it's combined well.
- Turn off the mixer and add the flour and salt and mix just until combined.
- Beat ⅓ of the egg white mixture into the almond mixture then remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the remaining whites very gently but thoroughly.
- Divide the batter among 3 bowls. Stir red food coloring into one and green into another, leaving the 3rd plain.
- Put the green batter, covered, into the refrigerator.
- Pour the red batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Layer will be about ¼ inch thick.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, just until set. The won't look cooked, but a tester should come out clean.
- Using the paper overhang, transfer the layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes.
- Clean the pan and reline with parchment paper.
- Repeat the process with the white layer. As the white layer bakes, remove the green layer from the refrigerator to come to room temperature.
- Prepare the pan again and bake the green layer the same as the first two.
- Once all the layers are cool, invert the green layer onto a parchment lined large baking sheet. Discard the paper and spread the cake with half of the jam.
- Invert the white layer on top of the green layer and remove the paper.
- Spread with the remaining jam.
- Cover with plastic wrap and weight with a large baking pan and 6 tins of soup or fruit. Chill at least 8 hours.
- Remove the weight and plastic wrap. Bring the layers to room temperature.
- Chop the chocolate into small bits and put half the chocolate, 1 tsp. of butter and 1 tsp of sugar in a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water.
- Once it's melted and smooth, take the bowl off the pan and turn off the heat. Throw in the rest of the chocolate and stir until it's smooth. Put the bowl of chocolate back over the water to keep it from setting.
- Trim the edges of the assembled layers with a long serrated knife. Quickly spread half the chocolate in a thin layer on top of the cake. Chill, uncovered, until the chocolate is set, about 15 minutes.
- Cover with a sheet of wax paper and invert the cake onto another baking sheet. remove the paper from the cake and spread with the remainder of the chocolate.
- Once set, cut into 1 inch squares. If necessary, the cake can be frozen for 1 hour before cutting, but be sure to use a hot knife to prevent the chocolate from cracking.