America is a melting pot that was formed by the hard-working people who migrated here from lands as far east as China and Japan, as far north as Russia and Europe. They utilized American supplies and prepared them in ways that they had prepared them in their homeland. True American food is a collection of these culinary traditions passed down from generation to generation”.Each culture brought their cooking methods, food, and spices to America. They farmed the soil, hunted game, and incorporated their ways into the food of America.
Although often called simply rainbow cookies in much of the continental United States, some local names for this special cookie are:
In southern Italy almond paste cookies are abundant, but rainbow cookies weren’t found in this region or anywhere else in Italy. Although it is reported that recently some bakeries in Italy feature the cookie during the Christmas holidays. Rainbow cookies are an Italian American invention and most likely created to honor the color of the Italian flag. While it can be pretty difficult to pinpoint the exact history or creator, Rainbow cookies were made popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s by Italian-American bakeries, particularly those found in New York City, such as De Lillo’s and Ferrara’s.
Here is a modern twist video on this old-time treat from CBS News:
Rainbow cookies are also a common dessert for Jewish Americans. As Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe settled in New York at the turn of the 20th century, they often settled in areas that also had an Italian population. It was at this point that Jewish Americans were introduced to the rainbow cookie. The original rainbow cookie was made with butter and featured the Italian flag-like design in white, red and green. Jewish Americans adapted this cookie to suit their own Kosher dietary needs, substituting margarine for the butter. Jewish Americans were the first to change the original Italian flag design from a white layer to a yellow layer and the cookies are quite popular at Jewish delicatessens.
Italian American Rainbow Cookies
1- 8 ounce can almond paste
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup of 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
12-ounce jar apricot preserves
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking dishes; line with waxed paper; spray the paper with cooking spray.
Break up the almond paste in an electric mixer bowl with a fork. Add butter, sugar, egg yolks and extract and beat with the mixer until fluffy, 5 minutes. Beat in the flour and salt.
Beat egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Stir into the almond mixture with a wooden spoon, using a turning motion similar to folding.
Remove 1-1/2 cups batter; spread evenly into one of the prepared pans. Remove another 1-1/2 cups batter to small bowl; tint green with coloring. Spread into the second pan. Tint remaining 1-1/2 cups batter red. Spread in the remaining pan.
Bake 15 minutes or until edges are lightly golden; cake layers will each be 1/4 inch thick. Immediately remove cakes from the pans onto large wire racks. Carefully peel off waxed paper. Cool.
Place red layer on upturned jelly roll pan or large platter lined with foil. Heat preserves; strain. Spread half of the strained preserves over the red layer. Top with a white layer. Spread with remaining preserves. Cover with a green layer, top side up.
Cover with plastic wrap. Weigh down with a large wooden cutting board, heavy flat tray, or large book. Refrigerate overnight.
Melt chocolate on top of a double boiler over hot water.
Trim off the uneven cake edges with a sharp knife. Frost the top layer with half of the melted chocolate. Let chocolate dry. Turn the rectangle over and frost with the remaining chocolate. Let the chocolate dry. Cut the cake crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips. Cut each strip into 1-inch pieces. Makes about 6 dozen. Store in a container in the refrigerator. Cookies freeze well.