Monday, December 22, 2008

An elegant Christmas cookie with many names!

A cookie that is so elegant and delectable deserves a lot of attention and more than one name, right?

Venetians, Italian Flag Cookies, Seven-Layer Cookies and Rainbow Cookies. These are the names given to a jewel-like cookie that hails from Italy and is typically baked during the Christmas season.

They are sometimes called Venetians, because their colourful layers bring to mind the luminous stained glass of Venice and Murano. Tint the marzipan layers green and red (with one remaining white) and TaDah - you have the Italian flag, hence Italian Flag Cookies. Count the layers, including jam and chocolate, and you have seven layers. Rainbow Cookies - well that's too obvious! Personally, I like to call them Venetians, because they evoke the grandeur and wealth of Venice, a brilliant diamond on the Adriatic Sea.

The basis of this cookie is almond paste. It produces a dough that is thick and very moist. Although a little time consuming, you will be gifted with little gems that will steal the show in any cookie gift box or tray. Fortunately, it won't take you as long to make them as it would stained glass!

I found this recipe years ago in Gourmet magazine (December, 1999). I have made a couple of changes which simplifies the method a little. You will need three 13 x 9 inch metal baking pans, so I suggest you beg, borrow or steal from the neighbors' if you need to!


You will need:

7 ounces almond paste

1 cup sugar

3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 drops green food coloring (or more to reach desired color)

5 drops red food coloring (or more to reach desired color)

2-3 drops yellow food coloring (or you can leave the batter untinted)

1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam or smooth apricot jam (warm it then press through a sieve to remove lumps)

6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

This is how to make them:
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 3 13x9 inch metal baking pans with spray oil. Place each pan on three pieces of waxed paper. Outline the bottom of the pans in pencil. Cut out the shapes and place waxed paper on the inside of the greased pans. Than, flip the waxed paper over in each pan, and voila, both sides of the waxed paper will be greased.

Break almond paste into small chunks and place in food processor. Add the sugar and process until no lumps remain. Transfer to your mixer bowl and add butter. Beat until light and fluffy for about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well, stopping every minute or so to scrape down sides of bowl. This will take about 5 minutes. On lowest speed, add almond extract, flour and salt. Don't beat too much at this point or you'll lose all the air that your beaters have incorporated into the batter.

Divide the batter into thirds (about 1 1/2 - 2 cups each). To each third add red, green and yellow coloring and carefully blend into each batter, scooping the batter up from the bottom and lifting it to the top. Do not beat the batters. Spread each batter separately into the three pans and even out the top with a spatula (I use a small offset spatula). The layers will be thin, so reach for the corners!

Bake layers individually in middle of oven until just set and the edges are beginning to brown, about 7 - 10 minutes. For each layer: let rest for 5 minutes on rack then invert onto another rack. Carefully remove wax paper and cool completely. You should assemble the layers on the same day as you bake them so that the layers bind properly.

Line a large tray or cutting board with wax paper (this will allow you to cut the cookies easily). Carefully slide green cookie layer onto it. Spread 1/4 cup of jam evenly on top. Scrape off any excess jam. You want a very thin layer of jam so that the cookie layers don't slide off each other when you cut the cookie shapes. Top it with the yellow layer and spread with the rest of the 1/4 cup jam. Scrape off excess jam. Top with red layer. Cover with plastic wrap and a hard-cover book to weight it down. Set aside for at least three hours and up to 3 days. The longer it is allowed to sit, the better the layers with stick to each other. There is no need to refrigerate it.

Pretty layers

A few hours before serving, melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave. Stir gently until smooth. Remove weight and plastic from cookie layers and pour chocolate on top. Spread top with offset spatula. Let stand at room temperature until almost set. You will see parts of the chocolate drying. With a long, sharp knife, trim the edges and save for snacking.

Trim the edges and slice

To cut: Use a long, sharp knife. Clean and dry knife after every cut. Cut into small (1 x 1 inch) squares, rectangles or diamond shapes using a smooth downward motion - do not move knife up and down. To cut diamond shapes, cut at 1-inch intervals lengthwise and then at 1-inch intervals on the diagonal. Makes about 7 dozen.

Merry Christmas to all, and all of the best in the coming year!



  1. Beautifully done. They were wonderful. I was hoping you would blog on them. Stunning pictures.

  2. Vera - ne samo sto su lepi nego su i vrlo ukusni! Izvolte dodite na divlji zapad i probajte!

  3. Excellent recipe - I received so many complients - these are delicious! Thank you!

  4. I've made them for my 2nd yr in a row! Thank you for posting the recipe and pics! Had a lot of "encore" requests last yr. ;)

    1. Thanks Arianne! I'm so glad that these cookies have become a favorite!


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