Monkey says, Rosi, You Go ahead and Start (Open Call: Your Own Special Holiday Cooking and Baking)

In comments on one of her recent posts, here is an excerpt from p.3.  
Our very own Foolish Monkey said:

all of us who bake and cook special stuff for the holidays should do a few special posts.  I've been considering doing some myself...  I think this is going to be an open call; YOUR OWN SPECIAL HOLIDAY COOKING AND BAKING.  

mine may or may not be biscuits but it'll be good.  and helpful if someone wants to try it.  maybe fruitcake.  they really ARE great.  so yummy.  and SO friggin fattening too. 

So last night I started my holiday baking, and wrote to FM to see when she wanted to post her Open Call, and she told me to go right on ahead and start so HERE WE GO!

I made Neapolitan cookies. I may have to make a second batch if the BLP finds where I hid them.

This recipe was given to me by my Uncle Lenny about 35 years ago, and I have made them almost every single December since, except for 1993 (the twins were infants), 2004-05 (living in a 2-room apartment with an inadequate kitchen), and 2008 (made a gingerbread house with the kids instead).

The dough starts with almond paste (not marzipan, which is almost the same but has sugar in it) and is baked in three layers the colors (roughly) of the Italian flag.

Warning! Tangent! I am laughing to myself, because even though my Dad's family identify as Italian, I recently found out that we are not really Italian, at least not by virtue of genetics.

Last year, I got the BLP a genetic-testing kit from Nat Geo because as a person who was adopted as an infant, he knew a little about his biological mother but had no idea what his father's genetic makeup was. It was fascinating to see the results. He is full of Nordic and Germanic markers. He is culturally Italian because he was raised in a Brooklyn Italian family.

As for me, while my family name is found in Sicily, it is far more abundant in Spain, Portugal, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Some preliminary research indicated the possibility that Moslem people who found their way to the Iberian Peninsula were later converted/forced out by Christian forces, and some found their way to Sicily.
My own genetic testing says I have not a drop of Italian blood, but instead have a genetic profile consistent with Iberian peoples. Hmmmmmmm.

So then, after the fact that I'm American, I'm genetically Hispanic, possibly from an Islamic background, and culturally Italian. I thought that was pretty cool.

Back to the baking. The bowl of white stuff is merengue, 4 egg whites beaten until soft peaks form The yellow stuff is almond paste broken up into tiny pieces with a fork before beating with the 4 egg yolks, sugar, and butter.
The merengue gets mixed by hand into the almond paste batter, and then flour is stirred in with a wooden spoon.
The wooden spoon thing is important. If you use something else, I cannot guarantee your results. By the way, the same thing is true if you've ever made cream puff dough. It only works with a wooden spoon.

Maybe someone who understands these things can explain it, because I sure can't. I put it on "baking magic tricks" and leave it at that.

Next I divide the dough into 3 equal amounts and add green dye to one part and red dye to another. I like using the gel food coloring because it's just so intense.

Prepping the stuff for baking is fun. It takes a whole bunch of time with a spatula to push, smooth, cajole, and convince the sticky, delicate batter to take a nice, flat rectangular shape. I do it on parchment paper, lift the whole thing on to a cookie sheet, and bake it like that. (The recipe says "wax paper" but you and I know better, right?)

After all three cakes are baked, I put it together. A thin coat of seedless black raspberry jam goes between the red and white layers, and apricot jam goes between the white and green layers.

Then I wrap it all up in plastic and tin foil, put something heavy on top, and out it goes to the nice cool garage overnight to get squished together.

Today I let it back in the kitchen, unwrapped it, and melted chocolate for the top. Originally the recipe called for Nestle morsels, but several years back I switched to Dove "promises"- I use a combination of milk chocolate and dark chocolate- about a dozen of each. You can use any chocolate you like, really, and you should.

After the chocolate has been applied to the top, I wait about an hour before using the sharpest knife I have to cut the thing into strips and then little rectangles.

Here's the recipe and directions:

So there you go.

What's your holiday specialty?

Please share it- this is an open call, after all!

Views: 268

Comment by Rosigami on December 4, 2016 at 5:41pm

These are my favorites. Worth the effort.
Can't wait to see what you guys make!

Comment by nerd cred on December 4, 2016 at 5:51pm

What is the consistency of the colored layers like? When it's ready to eat, I mean.

Comment by Rosigami on December 4, 2016 at 5:58pm

Consistency is unique; heavier than cake, from the almond paste. Almost chewy but not really- it has "tooth". The jam gives it some moisture, otherwise it would be fairly dry despite the butter. Not quite candy, not quite cake.

Comment by nerd cred on December 4, 2016 at 7:07pm

I asked because the assembly seems unusual to me, too - especially whipping the whites, the way the flour is added before the whites then the squooshing part. It all seems to defeat the purpose of beating the whites.

I have a horrid sinus infection or something and my thinking is impeded.

As to my xmas specialties. ho ho ho. Since I moved here, you know, for the support of my family, I have spent most of them alone so now it's whatever I feel like when I feel like. IT used to be spritz christmas trees I don't know why. I love a tender butter cookie. Kids hated them. I got them all. And Russian Tea Cakes. I made the kids chocolate chip cookies ordinaire because I drew the line at oreos for christmas. Maybe next year. :-) I also went through a period of fancy buche de noels, too with kick ass buttercream. I've been wanting to try that with an Italian buttercream - less butter, I think. One of the kids said it was frosted with chocolate butter. Yeah that's the point, kid. The family thing was fudge. I can do without it.

I have the limited menu right now. No pictures.

Comment by Rosigami on December 4, 2016 at 7:34pm

No, if you look again, the whites first, before the flour! Otherwise, as you said, it would defeat the purpose.

Sinus infection, how awful. Please feel better fast.

I agree about baking what you like.

Butter cookies...chocolate buttercream...every thing you mention sounds lovely!

Comment by marilyn sands on December 5, 2016 at 12:07am

Very elaborate work of art, Rosi!  Impressed with the presentation. Hope it tastes as good as it looks.  R&L

Comment by Rosigami on December 5, 2016 at 12:13am

I love them, Marilyn. Thanks! They get better with age, too. 

Comment by Julie Johnson on December 5, 2016 at 7:52am

.....mmmmm....num...num...num...keep it  coming! 

Comment by Rosigami on December 5, 2016 at 8:21am

Monkey! I know, these are impossible to stop eating. I always trim the 4 sides so that everything is even before I start cutting up the cookies, and those trimmings are FAIR GAME.
You made your own almond paste? I'm seriously impressed. I have a bag of almond flour that I use a bit here and there in other cakes, and coconut flour that I am still trying to figure out what to do with. I made some gluten-free vegan brownies for a friend once and they were less than stellar. Bone dry. Apparently coconut flour needs even more fat/liquid than the recipe called for.

Comment by Rosigami on December 5, 2016 at 8:23am

Julie, I know! :)


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