When my children were very little, I began our Christmas cookie tradition. It was simple then – just a few cookies: chocolate chip, peanut butter kisses, and sugar cookies — cut into snowmen, angels and bells. Each year, I added a few more and at one point, I was making about twenty different types of cookies.
The children loved to help decorate the cookies and, of course, eat them. They knew the tradition required that they had to wait until Christmas Eve to eat the cookies. Over the years, it became a joke – no cookies until Christmas Eve.
As grandchildren arrived, they too, looked forward to the Christmas cookie tradition. Often their parents would tell them not to eat a certain cookie because it was the parent’s favorite. The grandchildren caught on quickly and were not intimidated.
My children still look forward to these cookies when we get together, even though, they are adults now. They all live in different parts of the country, but I manage to see one or two of them during the holidays or send them a care package. However, these days I have reduced the number of cookies I make to the most popular seven, otherwise, we would have cookies around until the fourth of July!
The number one family favorite of our Christmas cookie tradition, without a doubt, is:
Italian Rainbow Cookies (aka Venetian – Neapolitan – Tricolor)
One 8 ounce can almond paste
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 drops green food coloring
8 drops red food coloring
One 12 ounce jar apricot preserves
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dishes; line with waxed paper; grease the paper.
2. Break up paste in large mixer bowl with fork. Add butter, sugar, egg yolks and extract and beat with the mixer until fluffy, 5 minutes. Beat in the flour and salt.
3. Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into almond mixture with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.
4. Remove 1-1/2 cups batter; spread evenly into one of prepared pans. Remove another 1-1/2 cups batter to small bowl; tint green with coloring. Spread into second pan. Tint remaining 1-1/2 cups batter red. Spread in remaining pan.
5. Bake 15 minutes or until edges are lightly golden; cake layers will each be 1/4 inch thick. Immediately remove cakes from pans onto large wire racks. Carefully peel off waxed paper. Cool.
6. Place red layer on upturned jelly roll pan. Heat preserves; strain; reserve chunks in strainer for other uses. Spread half of strained preserves over red layer. Top with white layer. Spread with remaining preserves. Cover with green layer, top side up.
7. Cover with plastic wrap. Weigh down with large wooden cutting board, heavy flat tray or large book. Refrigerate overnight.
8. Melt chocolate in top of double boiler over hot water. Trim cake edges even. Cut cake crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips. Frost layer of one strip with chocolate. Turn strip on side and frost the other side. Let chocolate dry. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Repeat with remaining strips.
Makes 6 dozen. Cookies freeze well.
For more of Jovina’s Christmas cookie recipes click HERE.