11/14/08

Rainbow Layer Bars with Almond Paste

This post is just making me shake my head to write it. You see, I had to work so long and hard to find this recipe! And it's kind of a cute story so I'm going to share.

First off, I have no idea what this recipe is really called. A long time ago I saw a picture of some cookies or bars that just looked so amazing and delicious, the image stuck in my brain. Although I don't remember when or where I know I was reading something online and came across the photo again so this time I saved a copy of it in my files. I did not have a recipe to go with it, I had no idea where it came from, but I couldn't get the image out of my head!

A few weeks ago I was bored and had some 'down' time to de-stress and just surf the internet a little bit when I came across a post on a message board that wasn't very eye catching, but I clicked on the title anyway. I have no idea why.

Suddenly, there it was. MY picture! The picture I had saved and saved and saved.... hoping to some day track down a recipe to go with it. And it was right in front of me! I was so excited I immediately cut and pasted the recipe to a word file and saved it, but in my rush I neglected to paste the name of the recipe. LOL.

So I have no idea what they are called, but they remind me of Christmas and also of an Italian flag with the red, green and white layers. All I know is have almond paste in them (which is a LOVE of mine) and I want to make these this Christmas!

And now... I finally (finally!) have the recipe. And you do too.

Rainbow Layer Bars

Ingredients4 large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 (8-oz) can almond paste
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) 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 apricot preserves, heated and strained
7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped

You'll need a heavy-duty stand mixer for this recipe!

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13X9" baking pan and line bottom with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 ends, then butter the 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 a 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 yolks and almond extract and beat until combined well, 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 white batter aside. Chill green batter, covered. Pour red batter into 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 but still undercooked!

Using paper overhang, transfer layer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Clean pan, then line with 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.

When all layers are cool, invert green onto a wax-paper-lined large baking sheet. Discard paper from layer and spread with half of preserves. Invert white on top of green layer, discarding paper. Spread with remaining preserves. Invert red layer on top of white layer and discard wax paper.

Cover with plastic wrap and weight with a large baking pan. Chill at least 8 hours.

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 water.

Trim edges of assembled layers with a long serrated knife. 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 4 strips. Cut strips crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide cookies.
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