A friend of mine and I were just discussing which of our senses we could live without. After a bit of thinking I had settled on smell— a decision directly related to living in a city where ambient smells are cheap, plentiful, confusing, and often punishing as summer wears on. But it’s autumn now, thankfully, and the air is crisp (or it’s going to be soon? Next week? By Halloween?), and if I couldn’t smell I’d miss some of the best things about this season…leaf piles, wood stoves, hot apple cider, and fresh concord grapes!
Following Jen’s lead on Monday, I’ve got more love here for The Bounty, plus a recipe! On my last visit there, surveying the menu my eyes immediately closed in on the dessert section. Sour Cherry Far Breton? Could my eyes be deceiving me? I can’t recall ever seeing a Far Breton on a menu in Brooklyn, but it is this dessert about which I dream. I had hit the jackpot.
On a recent super top secret important Greenpointers business meeting, I needed some sweet and Lauren at Milk n’ Roses described an Italian pastry stuffed with cheese and flavored ever so slightly with orange. “Give me that!”
What came was a sfogliatella, so I know why she didn’t even try to pronounce it. (Sf-oy-yuh-tell-uh) Crazy Italians! Who cares how to say it? It’s delicious and you shouldn’t talk with your mouth full anyway.
After working at an Italian bakery as a teenager in Queens, I quickly got sick of all the cannolis, rainbow cookies and the collect calls from the bakery owner’s mafioso son in jail, but I never got sick of the sfogliatelle (that’s plural).
Sfogliatelle are Nonna, my Sicilian grandmother’s, favorite dessert so it’s always in the box of pastries we bring to her house when we have our traditional Sunday eat-until-you-pass-out feast.
It is crispy dough infinitely layered into the shaped of a shell and inside is soft and not too sweet ricotta with a nice citrus tang and dusted with powdered sugar. Try one next time you’re at Milk n’ Roses (1110 Manhattan Ave), they’re irresistible!
I’ve had this recipe for Rainbow Cookies on my fridge since last year and decided to make it. Working my first job as a counter girl at an Italian bakery in Queens and accepting collect calls from the grumpy bakery owner’s son, who was in jail for idiotic low-level racketeering, gave me have a distaste for Italian pastries, with the exception of a few things: Pignoli Cookies, Rainbow Cookies & Cannolis (but only the cannolis that the nuns from the San Carlo monastery on Erice, a medieval mountain town in Sicily make. God is in them.) The rest of the Italian pastries can burn in hell.
Rainbow Cookies are pretty pricey per pound and if you’re going to buy them around Brooklyn I would recommend Fortunata Brother’s on Manhattan & Devoe.
Making the rainbow cookies seemed pretty pricey, too. It didn’t help that I had to buy 3 half sheet pans at $15 a pop from The Brooklyn Kitchen, plus 4 tubes of Almond Paste at $8 a pop! I definitely came home grumpy.
“I should have just bought them at the bakery,” I said as I laid the ingredients on the counter. But the process and the end result were worth it, plus we got between 150-200 cookies out of it.
I cut the recipe out of New York Magazine from the chef of Torrisi Italian Specialties, a great Italian restaurants down on Mulberry, the walls lined with Manhattan Special: my favorite drink, espresso soda.
If you plan on making rainbow cookies, make sure you have an entire day off plus a partner with good hand-eye coordination. I am lacking in that area and Jon, who is mechanically inclined proved, to have amazing cake layering and chocolate spreading skills. Had I tried to take this endeavor solo, I assure you these cookies would not be so pretty.
When it comes down to it, “it’s a lot of work, Jane,” as Nonna, my Sicilian Grandma would say. There are many steps: beating the egg whites for stiff glossy peaks, splitting one batter into three for coloring, baking three cakes separately until just underdone so they stay moist, cooling the cakes then layering them using orange marmalade as glue, letting them set then spreading warm chocolate on the top and bottom. Start as early in the morning as you can.
While getting closer and closer to chocolatey soft almond cookie goodness, I was giddy. I remember saying, “this sure as hell beats last minute christmas shopping.” In fact, making these cookies is what the holidays are all about: slowing down, spending time with someone you love, making something you love, then giving to people you love.” These cookies put a truer smile on faces than anything you can unwrap and rip a price tag off of.
Torrisi Rainbow Cookies Recipe from New York Magazine
12 large eggs, separated
2 2/3 cups sugar
24 oz. almond paste
8 sticks butter, softened
5 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. red food coloring
2 tsp. green food coloring
16 oz. orange preserves, heated and strained
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Preheat oven to 350. Beat egg whites in electric mixer until they just hold stiff peaks. Add ½ cup sugar, beating until whites hold stiff, slightly glossy peaks, then refrigerate. Beat together almond paste and remaining sugar in mixer. Add butter gradually and beat until mixture is fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add yolks and beat until well combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour and salt and mix until just combined. Fold in egg whites. Divide batter equally among 3 bowls; wearing gloves,(1) whisk red food coloring into one and green into another, leaving the third batch plain. Spread each batter separately and evenly, about ¼-inch thick, onto 3 half-sheet pans, each greased and lined with parchment paper. Bake until just barely set, about 7 minutes. (2) When layers are cool, spread half the preserves onto the green layer. Invert plain layer over it and discard paper. Spread on remaining preserves, and invert red layer over it; discard paper. Wrap with plastic and top with a weighted baking pan. Refrigerate for several hours. Remove plastic and bring to room temperature. Melt chocolate in a double boiler, and (3) spread thinly on top layer. Chill in freezer briefly until firm. Cover with wax paper, place another baking sheet on top, then invert cake onto sheet pan and remove paper. Quickly spread with remaining chocolate and return to freezer until firm. Trim edges, slice, and serve.