Sunday, 13 February 2011

Baking Sunday: Tricolour cookies

I love cookbooks and have a pretty big collection of baking books. The cookbook section is usually one of my first stops when I visit any bookshop to see if there's anything new and exciting I should be checking out. When I'm on holiday it's exactly the same and I have been known to come home with heavy cookbooks weighing down my luggage, proclaiming "I won't be able to get these in the UK!" -  conveniently forgetting about Amazon and ebay. On my last holiday in Florence, I visited a wonderful American bookshop, the Paperback Exchange. It was a beautifully charming and well-stocked bookshop and the cooking section had a lot of lovely looking books, mostly in Italian (unfortunately for me). However there were a number of American titles I had never seen, and one jumped out at me - "Baked - New Frontiers in Baking." 

Baked is a Brooklyn-based hipster bakery (by their own admission) who say that "not every baker wants to re-create Grandma's angel food cake or cherry pie." The recipes in the book are updated versions of classics such as the Red Hot Velvet Cake (with cinnamon buttercream) or Lemon-Almond meringue tarts (with amaretto meringue topping) and their own signature creations such as Sweet and Salty Cake (chocolate layer cake with salted caramel ganache),  Root Beer Bundt Cake and Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie. Pretty much every recipe has me drooling over the pictures, such as the Peanut Butter Crispy Bars, pictured with a perfect chocolate glaze and a bite taken out to show the smooth peanut butter layer, yummmm. Shamefully, I had yet to make anything from the book, and so I decided to tackle these Baked Tricolour Cookies. 

These are an American-Italian dessert, usually baked in the red, white and green combination of the Italian flag however the recipe gives a chocolate and orange flavour to these almond cookies, and suggests baking them in brown, white and orange. I decided to colour my cookies with brown, white and purple instead and flavour the purple layer with a lavander syrup. I also used a shredless marmalade instead of apricot jam to sandwich the layers together which gave more of a tang and took the edge off the sweetness of the cookie. 

As I didn't have the square baking pans required, I used a 3 set of cake tins of the same size which I thought would work quite well - sadly not. The layers were too thick to be cookies, and so my version is more of a slice. Next time I would rather bake them in the pan I normally bake brownies in, to get a thinner layer. This would mean baking each layer individually though so it will have to wait til I have a very free weekend! The cake pans did mean I got a pretty slice of cake from it at least. These cookies/slices are delicious and the little touches of amaretto liqueur in the glaze and the dark chocolate glaze make them a pretty special treat. They are very sweet though so a little goes a long way!

Baked Tricolour Cookies

Ingredients:

For the cookie layers:
1 cup plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 oz almond paste (recipe follows)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup butter, softened (6 oz)
3 large eggs
Grated zest of 1 orange
Orange food colouring (or any colour of your choice)
2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder, sifted

For the filling:
2/3 cup apricot jam
2 tablespoons amaretto liqueur

For the glaze:
6 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter, softened (4 oz)

Method:

Make the cookie layers:

Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Butter three 8-inch square baking pans. Line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment. Dust with flour and knock out the excess flour. Sift the flour and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste, sugar, and almond extract together until small crumbs form. Add the butter and beat on high speed until the mixture is combined. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Add the orange zest and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture in three parts, beating on low speed after each addition until combined.

Divide the batter among three small mixing bowls. In the first bowl, add a few drops of the food colouring of your choice to the batter, and mix well. Continue to add a few drops of food coloring and mixing until the batter is evenly coloured. In the second bowl, add the cocoa powder to the batter and whisk until fully incorporated. Leave the third bowl plain.

Pour each batter into a prepared pan and smooth the tops. Bake the layers for 12 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each layer comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack, remove the pans, and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.

Make the filling:
In a small saucepan over low heat, stir the jam and amaretto until warmed through and completely blended, 3 to 5 minutes.

Assemble the cookies:
Place the chocolate layer on a serving rack and evenly spread half of the apricot jam over the top. Top with the plain layer and spread with the remaining apricot filling. Top with the coloured layer and let the layers sit in the refrigerator for 5 minutes (or while you make the chocolate glaze).

Make the glaze:
In a large nonreactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly.

Put it all together:
Spread the glaze over the top of the bar cookies, completely covering the coloured layer (some glaze may spill down the sides of the cake). Place the tray in the refrigerator until the chocolate topping completely sets (about 1 hour). Remove the tray from the refrigerator, wait 30 minutes for the chocolate to warm up, and cut into 20 individual squares or use a small cookie cutter to cream your own shapes.

The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.
Almond Paste (makes approx 14 oz)
Ingredients:
1.5 cups finely ground almonds
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Method:
Put all the ingredients in a food processor with 2 tablespoons of water and process until a paste forms. Remove from the food processor, wrap tightly in cling film and refridgerate until ready to use. Extra almond paste, tightly wrapped, keeps well in the freezer.