Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Somewhere Over the Rainbow Cookie

I think I am still recovering from this weekend.  On Saturday, I spent the day in Hilton Head Island, SC with Jessica and friends finally enjoying the beautiful weather the South forgot to dish out this year.  I didn't get back home til almost 1 AM where I proceeded to crawl into bed like a zombie.  Mike let me sleep in Sunday morning and though I slept for 8 hours I was still lagging once I got up, even after 3 cups of coffee.  When nap time came Sunday afternoon I dutifully crawled back into bed only to awoken by Rex trying to claw his way through the sliding door of our room.  Knowing I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep, I decided to make my rainbow cookies, a recipe I have written about previously that I was slacking on actually attacking.

I got up, still in PJ's and dragged my Macbook into the kitchen so I can follow the recipe from Smitten Kitchen, a fellow food blogger from NYC that shares my love of these little layered cookies of goodness.  Living in the South, Rainbow (or seven-layer) cookies aren't in high demand.  In the almost 5 years I have lived here I haven't seen any available for purchase, not surprising for the state where whipped cream is a suitable cannoli filling.  Since I haven't been back home since May, I needed a taste of home and looking for writing fodder I decided to make this recipe.

Rainbow cookies are relatively simple, but labor intensive.  If you are a novice baker and don't know the difference between creaming butter and Betty Crocker  box mix, I could imagine this recipe being harder.  I also wouldn't want to attempt this recipe without my Kitchen Aid (or a hand mixer), the thought of making meringue and creaming butter by hand sends shivers down my spine.  Three steps into the recipe I started having a  migraine.  Maybe being sleep deprived wasn't the best time to try a recipe I have never attempted.  I also should have read through the recipe a few times before starting, because when I separated my eggs for my meringue I discarded the egg yolks only to find I needed to incorporate the yolks later in the recipe.  I went into Mike's office where he was working on a drawing project for school to beg him to run to Publix to get a carton of eggs.  This was after I *briefly* considered how bad it would be to fish the yolks out of the just-changed garbage. Mike dutifully went to Publix for a carton of eggs while my recipe came to a standstill.

Once he returned, I separated 4 more eggs and this time I put the egg yolks in a bowl.  I carefully folded the meringue into the batter and prepped my 2 13x9 in casserole dishes with wax paper and butter to bake 2 out of 3 layers of the cookie.  My daughter Lily helped me mix the green and red food coloring into the divided batter and I set out to bake the layers.  While the green layer was in the oven I also decided to make meringue cookies with my left over egg whites, finding a recipe in one of my trusty cookbooks.  At this point, I had already spent 1.5 hours in the kitchen and I was nowhere near done.  Once all the layers were baked I made a make shift cooling station out of three wire racks and a stationary fan aimed directly at the cooling layers.  I knew I could only assemble this cookie once all layers were adequately cooled and I had already come so far, I didn't want to mess up this recipe with my impatience.  I was already facing 2 hours in the kitchen and I was starting to tire out.

Assembling the layers was easier than I first thought. Since the cakes were still on the wax paper they were baked on, I found it surprisingly easy to invert them on the cookie sheet.  In between each layer goes a layer of preserves, I used apricot preserves that I reduced down to a liquid consistency which wasn't called for in the recipe but it definitely helped.  Once the 5 layers were assembled- green layer, apricot, white layer, apricot, red layer- I wrapped up the layers in plastic wrap then topped them with a cookie sheet I weighed down with a jar of salsa and placed the layers in the fridge to chill for the foreseeable time.  The recipe called for 8 hours fridge time, knowing how impatient I am I knew I wasn't going to wait til Monday morning to finish the last part of this recipe - drenching the top and bottom layers with bittersweet chocolate that once chilled, would make a thin chocolate crust whose taste w cuts through the almond-apricot sweetness of the cookie.

Once the kids were tucked into bed, I set up my double boiler on the stove.  I am pretty much useless once the kids go to bed, my nights are better spent sitting my bum on a comfy piece of furniture doing mindless tasks like Internet bingo than melting chocolate and sugar in a double boiler (I had unsweetened chocolate in the house, the recipe called for bittersweet).  I knew the water should be barely simmering but my night-fogged mind decided to bring the water to a roaring boil under the double boiler then lowering the heat which would make the stainless bowl too hot to melt chocolate correctly.  If you are a seasoned baker, you know I was setting myself up for failure.  My first layer of melted chocolate was was the right consistency for spreading on the top of the cookie, the chocolate for the last layer of these cookies seized like an epileptic off their pills.

 I was so close to victory and there sat my chocolate in a clumpy grainy mess.  I plopped myself down on the couch, my 95% finished cookie chilling in the fridge unknowingly preparing for the last layer of chocolate and I was out of baking chocolate.  I knew my husband would be in no mood to make  second trip to the store so I decided to see if I could save the last of my chocolate.  I don't know what people did before the Internet and I don't ever want to relive those days again. I grabbed my trusty Macbook and I googled how to save this recipe.  I wasn't about to accept defeat.  When chocolate seizes, the cocoa butter separates from the cocoa solids but if you incorporate some vegetable shortening or vegetable oil, the mixture homogenizes once again.  Searching my pantry for the vegetable shortening left over from Christmas cookie baking, I felt like a marathon runner seeing the finish line for the first time.  I was almost done with these cookies.  I dutifully mixed the shortening into my seized chocolate and though the consistency wasn't exactly like properly attended melted chocolate it would suffice.  I spread the last layer on the cookie all while exuding the confidence of a second place win and put my cookies back in the fridge for another 30 minutes to allow the layers to all properly set.

45 minutes layer I cut the first of my rainbow cookies and promptly served the rewards of a long day in the kitchen to my husband.  After eating the first bite, my husband smiled then looked over to me and said "You made rainbow cookies" with a boyish giggle he usually reserves for when I do something right.  After 6+ hours in and out of the kitchen, that smile made all the hard work worth it.  I made rainbow cookies, yes, yes I did.

* On a side note, my almond meringues were pretty awesome too.  The kids and Rex enjoyed them all too much and they were devoured in a sitting before I could grab my camera to capture one fluffy crumb, nevermind a whole cookie.  Next time :)
** If you want the recipe, click the Smitten Kitchen link above.  It is long and Deb typed it up with more justice and grace than I ever could. It is also available through the Epicurious  app since it was originally printed in Gourmet  in 2005.

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