Non-vegan versions can be found in Italian bakeries far & wide, but vegan versions? Nowhere. Not at Vegan Treats or in VCIYCJ or anywhere in between. And now I know why: because to say they are a pain to make would be a ridiculous understatement. But I didn't know that going in; I just wanted some.
In preparation, I squashed together a couple of non-vegan recipes (here, here, and here) in accordance with my limited baking ability and ingredients, commissioned VM with promises of delicious birthday treats, and got to work. It was a long, boring, un-fun, laborious process that we agreed made the vegan struffoli seem like a breeze and had me wishing that I had bought the entire plateful from the WFAS Bakesale and saved us the trouble that these innocent looking cookies ultimately had us brewing in the kitchen.
If you've got a craving for a vegan version of these delicious treats, hours of free time, and someone to bake with: this is the recipe for you.
Vegan Rainbow Cookies
makes about 40 cookies
9 tbsp Ener-G egg replacer, divided
9 tbsp water, divided
1 tube almond paste, cubed
1 cup sugar, divided
1 1/4 cups butter, softened to room temperature
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
red & green food coloring, 22 drops of each (if you want to use natural versions, knock yourself out)
6 oz. apricot jam
6 oz. seedless raspberry jam
12 oz. chocolate chips, divided
1 tbsp shortening, divided
9 X 13 rimmed baking sheet, wax paper, Magic Bullet (food processor could work too), hand mixer, 3 cooling racks, plastic wrap, patience
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease pan, then line with waxed paper so that the paper extends on all sides. Grease and flour waxed paper.
2. Using a handmixer, create "egg whites" by beating together 4.5 tsp egg replacer with 6 tbsp water until it thickens. Add 1/2 cup sugar and beat until it thickens some more; set aside.
3. In the Magic Bullet, mix the almond paste and 1/2 cup sugar until combined into small, dusty bits. (Really: use the bullet; you will not be able to do this without lumps by using beaters, a fork, or even a potato masher. If you attempt to do so, you might abandon the recipe before you get any further).
4. Create "egg yolks" by mixing remaining egg replacer and water in small bowl with a spoon; set aside.
5. Pour almond paste/sugar mixture into a large bowl and beat in butter with the hand mixer. Add "egg yolks" and almond extract until blended. Add flour and salt until just combined. Add "egg whites" until just combined.
6. Divide batter into bowls in three even amounts. It will be gloopy and uncooperative, so- unless you have a food scale- you'll probably need to eyeball. With the help of food coloring, make one bowl pink and one green. You might be tempted to use a little yellow coloring for the last bowl, but resist: the color will be perfect as-is.
7. Spread one bowl of batter into your prepared pan; you will have just enough for an extremely thin layer. The goal is to make it as even as possible, but the batter will be so pasty and unmanageable that it will take all of your will power not to toss it out the window. With patience and persistence it will eventually spread across the pan; it was a combination of various traditional spatulas, an offset spatula, and an absurd amount of time that ultimately worked for me. (And- yay!- then you get to do it two more times!)
8. Bake layer 6-7 minutes, turn pan, bake for 6-7 minutes more. It may not look done, but it will have cooked enough; you are going for moist, dense cookie layers, not a fluffy cake. Let cool in pan on a cooling rack for 5-10 minutes, then remove. Lay the cooling rack directly on the cake and flip to invert. The wax paper side will be facing up and your cake will be in once piece.
9. Let pan cool to room temperature, re-prepare per instruction #1, and repeat for the remaining two bowls of batter.
10. When all cake layers are cooled, wash pan. Line with plastic wrap with enough overlay that you will be able to completely wrap the contents of the pan. Place a sheet of wax paper on top of the plastic wrap.
11. Move green layer from cooling rack to pan, laying the cake side on the clean wax paper, with the original wax paper side up. Carefully remove the top wax paper and spread green cake evenly with apricot jam.
12. Next, place yellow cake on the green cake/apricot jam, wax paper side up. Remove paper and layer with raspberry jam. (It is imperative to use two different flavors/colors of jam! You're already going to so much trouble; don't skimp on the jam.)
13. Finally, place pink layer on top and remove wax paper. Replace with clean sheet of wax paper, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and place pan in refrigerator with another same or slightly larger sized pan on top; this slight pressure coupled with the plastic wrap will compress the layers just enough. Refrigerate wrapped assemblage for a few hours.
14. Remove from fridge, take cake out of the pan, remove plastic wrap (save) and top layer of wax paper (leave bottom wax paper adhered to bottom), and bring to room temperature. Place the room temperature assemblage back into the pan with the piece of wax paper still on the bottom.
15. Melt six ounces of chocolate with 1/2 tbsp of shortening and spread evenly on top of pink layer. If you haven't run out of patience yet (I had), make a snazzy design in your chocolate (I didn't). Freeze, uncovered, for 15 minutes to set.
16. Remove from freezer, place a sheet of wax paper on top of hardened chocolate and invert so that the cake is now in the pan with the green side up. Remove wax paper and repeat step #15.
17. When second chocolate layer is set, cover with another sheet of wax paper, re-wrap with plastic wrap, and freeze for 6 hours; this will make cutting easier.
18. Once frozen, remove from freezer, unwrap and place cake on cutting board. Using a serrated knife because it won't crack the chocolate, trim all of the uneven edges; those are for you and your close friends and family who don't mind the imperfection. Next, cut cake into rectangles sized to your preference; about 1" X 2" is customary. (Because I didn't freeze my cake long enough it didn't cut as perfectly as I would have liked and they weren't all uniform).
Cookies can be store in containers in a single layer (or separated by wax paper) in the fridge or freezer until ready to eat. I do not recommend storing on the counter at room temperature, as the cake will dry out quickly.
BONUS!! Because this recipe was so relentlessly draining, during step #17 I decided to make something relatively easy to pair with the rainbow cookies.
And, what better to whip up than some of VM's favorite pignoli cookies?
Happy Birthday, VM!