I first heard of these cookies back in high school, when during AP European History we had to “recreate” the renaissance. I forget where we found the recipe, but I remember reading that these cookies in some form dated back to the 16th century. I remember making them and bringing them into class, and LOVING them. There is something about the sweet combination of almond and apricot and chocolate that makes these little cookies just devine.
Well, lets fast forward some 10 years to now. Easter is on Sunday, and I am going down to visit my in-laws. My father in law already put in an order for some GF Buckwheat bread (this will be a separate post), but I decided I wanted to bring something that everyone else could enjoy too, because I know he will keep the bread all to himself so that he can actually eat things like toast and sandwiches I came across these cookies at Smitten Kitchen, and then the GF version over at Hey That Tastes Good, and decided that they would be perfect. The bright rainbow colors are perfect for spring, and almonds and apricots make for an awesome fresh sweet flavor.
I ran into a couple of complications though, the first being that no where in this city can a gluten free almond paste be found. The solution? Make it myself. I found this Taste of Home Almond Paste Recipe, and just happened to have all the ingredients on hand. After making this, I have to say that this is the most fantastic almond paste I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t see how I could ever buy the tube or canned stuff again. Mine ended up being darker than in the photo on that site because I did not use blanched almonds. I just used plain raw almonds from the bulk foods section of the grocery store that I tend to keep around the house.
Ok now that I finally have all the ingredients, on to the cookies. So I finally got to use my grandmother’s old copper beating bowl for whipping up the egg whites. Oh what a difference a bowl makes! If you beat egg whites like this, seriously think about investing in a nice copper bowl. You can find a decent one for $50-$100 I think…
I always kinda freak out when I first add food coloring, cause it’s SO dark! But it’s kinda pretty as you swirl it around to incorporate it into your batter/dough (not sure which to call it – cookies typically have dough, but this is totally more cake-like than cookie-like).
All 3 layers baked! They came out great, they don’t even look gluten free, they look like real cake! They are a little bit bubbly, as you can see in this photo. That’s because I think my almond paste was a bit too cold when I crumbled it and incorporated it into the batter, so those bubbles are actually little pieces of almond paste. I also used foil rather than parchment paper, as you can see. No reason, just I had foil in the house.
Then for the preserves – I went to Whole Foods to find a good organic apricot preserves, to ensure that it would be gluten free. Have you ever looked at the labels on jams and jellies? It’s astonishing all the stuff that goes in. Half the stuff I looked at apricot was like the 4th ingredient down, after pear, apple, etc. What a ripoff! But don’t worry, I used good stuff
Then for the final step, the chocolate on each side. Given that my husband’s father also has dairy issues (casein), I did not know if regular chocolate was ok or not. I found some gluten free dairy free chocolate chips that I decided to try, and I skipped blending in the cream. If you don’t have dairy issues, do like the recipe and use the cream with the chocolate. It makes them much easier to cut later. I really had issues cutting the cookies without the chocolate cracking everywhere, and I guarantee that is why.
Overall, I am extremely pleased with how these came out. I know the tricolor is supposed to represent the Italian flag, but I think the pastel nature of how they came out makes them the perfect dessert for Easter and celebrating springtime!