Thursday, February 3, 2011

Valentine Venetian Cookies

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Ahh February, love is in the air. Candy hearts, flowers, chocolate boxes, yada yada yada. Don't get me wrong, I love Valentine's Day! And if there is one thing Valentine's Day means to me, it is creating wonderful Valentine themed baked goods and crafts for all the people I care about. I have a few things on the way to share with you in the next week or so. Up first is my sister's FAVORITE cookie of all time. It is an Italian Christmas cookie, traditionally colored like the Italian flag. They are more like cakes than cookies. Kind of like tiny petit four layered almond cakes covered in chocolate ganache. These are perfect for filling heart shaped boxes and giving to that special someone!

*One note I want to make about this recipe has to do with the almond paste. It generally comes in 2 ways. In a can and in a tube. The can is 8 ounces and the tube is 7. Almost every recipe for this cookie calls for 8 ounces. I can only ever find the tube and it costs almost 10 bucks. I hate to buy a whole other tube just for that one ounce. I almost always have almond meal or almonds in my pantry. For that extra ounce, I just use half almond meal or ground almonds and half sugar with a splash of water. Voila, almond paste.

Valentine Venetians
Makes 50 to 60, depending on size

For the cake:
8 oz. almond paste*
1 cup granulated sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Red and pink food coloring
8 oz. seedless raspberry preserves

For the ganache:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the almond paste and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse will combined. Add butter, egg yolks and extracts. Blend till light and smooth, 3 to 5 minutes. Add flour and salt and mix just to combine.

Whisk egg whites till stiff peaks form. Gently fold into almond mixture. Divide batter into 3 bowls. Add desired amounts of food coloring.

This next part can be done a couple of different ways. The batter can be spread into the bottom of three 13 x 9 inch pans, but I always found this way to be very annoying.

The easiest way to do this is by rolling the batter between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Start by rolling it out on the counter. Transfer the whole thing to the baking sheet. Place another same sized baking sheet on top and press down to flatten. The batter should be about 1/8 of an inch thick.

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Place in oven with both sheets of parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Heat the raspberry preserves in small saucepan. Brush a layer of preserves over one of the cake layers. Top with another cake layer. Brush another layer of preserves on top. Place last cake layer on top. Wrap in plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator and weight down with a cookie sheet and various refrigerator items. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferable overnight.

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For the ganache, heat chocolate, heavy cream and butter over a double boiler till smooth. Cover the entire almond cake in the ganache.

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Once the chocolate is set, cut the cake into 1 inch squares. These are so yummy, they are almost addicting!!

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  1. These were so delicious and awesome looking a valet guy SCARFED EM DOWN when I gave them my car! I didnt realize the truth....until it was too late.....

  2. OMG, these beautiful treats captured my heart. And I'm happy to report I was able to reproduce them successfully.

    A few tips to those who will try this recipe:

    Buy a the 1 oz. bottle of red food coloring. You will use 1/4 or 1/2 to get *red* cake.

    Although the finished product looks like cake, the batter is not runny and smooth like cake batter. You didn't do anything wrong; its supposed to be thick, like drop-cookie-dough batter.

    And you will break your arm trying to fold in the egg whites. Just keep at it.

    Start with 5-6 drops of red food coloring to make red cake. Add more. Keep adding more. This is why you bought the 1 oz. bottle.

    I found it easier to bake all three cakes separately, in three different 9x13 cookie sheet-pans.

    You will want to roll the batter between sheets of parchment paper, so that you can spread the batter as thin as it will go and so that it's smooth. It probably won't reach all the way to the edges of the pan. That's okay.

    There may be air pockets in your finished baked, cake. It's okay - it will be layered; no one will notice.

    A very special valentine that will be much appreciated.

  3. Great advice! I use the gel food coloring from the cake specialty food stores which is much more concentrated so if you are using gel food coloring, only about 1 to 2 teaspoons of food coloring is needed! But if you are using regular food coloring I would imagine you would need a lot more!