Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Merci à Ma Belle-Mère with Rainbow Birthday Cookies

my college graduation: Ad Man, Step-Mom & future Rabbi 

As a half-orphaned 12-year-old, I grew five inches, several pounds, one or two shoe sizes along with a few other assorted things that branched out during the year I spent with the widowed Ad Man.   When my soon to be step-mother arrived on the scene I was ready for a makeover from gawky child to ever more awkward and sullen adolescent.  My shoes were way too tight, my clothes were slightly small, and my very first training bra had long since navigated past safety pin RX.

I am pretty sure the woman took one look at me, grabbed the Ad Man’s credit card, shoved me into her car, and took me to the best department store in the city.   The Ad Man had probably exaggerated his fairy tale wealth and so she assumed buying the best (read: expensive) stuff would be a no brainer.  Too bad he blanched to the shade of winter blizzard white when she showed him our loot.  

The outing was to buy a complete makeover ensemble for their nuptials – something that hopefully would not embarrass anyone.  The idea was to start with the first layer and move on out to the stuff people actually would see.  Until she took me to the department called foundations (which is now affectionately called lingerie) I had no idea that underwear came with so much hardware.  We left there with two complete matching sets of stuff with enough wire to build a bicycle.  But not before I was mortified beyond reason by someone called a fitter who actually makes you stand there naked and measures you from more angles than I thought possible on one teenage human body.  

We left the store that day with all the layers to completely transform me into a young lady, or a newly minted secretary as played by a giant 12 year old; the outfit was a tailored suit with little black pumps.  My face said kid, but my outfit said dictation.

Fortunately my step-mother also knew that stopping by the Snowflake Bakery on the way home to bring the Ad Man a special treat would probably soothe his shock at the final tab for all the fabric it took to make me presentable.  I was allowed to get some of my favorite things which amounted to a half moon treat along with their famous rainbow cookies.

Just to make sure I had my role in the newly formed family pretty well nailed down, I did what any self respecting hormonal teenager would do.  I perfected sullen.  Even on their wedding day, banished to the end of the one of the long tables, far away from the happy couple, I undoubtedly did my best pouting teen look for the audience of none.  Self involved teenagers rarely know that the world is not watching them, especially at an occasion where they are not the star of the show, like a wedding.

I am not even sure she remembers this early getting-to-know-you-through-undergarment-before-the-wedding shopping escapade.  But it was a beginning I’ll never forget, and have come to treasure as the years fly by.  It has been many decades now and today she celebrates a very big birthday that comes after 30 (plus four more decades).  If the old Snowflake Bakery were still in business I might buy her a little pastry and tell her that having her as my second mom is my lucky fortune, wired undergarments or not.
Judy's  Birthday Rainbow Cookies
  • 2 to 2.5  packages of (fresh) almond paste (about 16 ounces total)
  • 4.25 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 2 cups white (ultra fine works great) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • splash of vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons xanthan gum (for gluten free flour only)
  • 3 cups of gluten free flour or all purpose flour
  • 8 eggs
  • about 25 drops of red and green food coloring (each)
  • 1.5 - 2 jars of dark red jam (seedless is best)
  • pinch of your favorite liquor, Godiva, Cherry or whatever smells good
  • 12-15 ounces of really good quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter and line three jelly roll pans with parchment that overhangs slightly.  Butter parchment.  Set aside.

Mix almond paste with sugar in a food processor thoroughly. 

In a stand mixer, incorporate the butter, almond/sugar.  Add eggs one at a time
Whisk flour, xanthan gum (for gluten free flour only) and salt in a bowl.  Add to wet mixture until incorporated. 

Separate batter evenly into three bowls.  Add green food coloring to one bowl, red in another bowl and leave one without color.  

Spread each batter in your prepared pans. Bake about 12 minutes total and rotate half way.  Let cool completely.

Heat jam until liquid.  Add liquors to taste.  Strain if necessary & cool to room temperature.

Loosen edge of green cake.  Lift parchment slightly so that it is free, but keep it in the pan. Spread thin layer of jam on top. 

Loosen edges of the layer that is not colored.  Flip layer onto layer with jelly using parchment to help.  Gently push it into place. Spread jam on that layer.  Place the last layer on top as evenly as possible.

Cover final layer with clean parchment. Wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap.   Place a large cutting board on top to weigh it down.  Set aside two hours or more. 

The Finish
Break up the chocolate and melt it in a double boiler over barely warm heat, stirring occasionally. 

When almost melted turn off the heat.  Stir in corn syrup.  Let chocolate cool slightly.

Trim the edges of the cake with a serrated knife.  Drizzle half the chocolate over top and spread.  Refrigerate about 15 minutes to set the chocolate.

Place a piece of clean parchment on a large baking sheet.  Place that on top of the chocolate coated side and in one movement, flip over. 

Peel off parchment.  Drizzle remaining chocolate to the edges.   Refrigerate until set.

Use a serrated knife or a very small sharp knife to cut the cookies into small squares. Tastes best the next day after liquor and other flavors fuse.  They keep well frozen, or at room temperature in a tin for about a week. 

Happy 36.8 Million minute birthday, Judy!

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