Gluten Free Italian Rainbow Cookies - A Refined Sugar Free Dessert
Fun Fact: Italian Rainbow Cookies originated in the 1900s in Italian immigrant neighborhoods in the United States to honor their home country. Often referred to as "tricolore" cookies, Italian Rainbow Cookies are colored to resemble the Italian flag. Italian Rainbow Cookies are more of a hybrid between cake and cookie, sandwiched together by melted chocolate and filled with delicious fruity jam. They're a light, sweet treat perfect for anytime of year, but are always a staple as a part of my Italian family's Christmas Eve spread! I have never made Gluten Free Italian Rainbow Cookies before, so I took a traditional recipe straight from the pro Lidia Bastianich herself, and tweaked it to be gluten free and refined sugar free and I am so super excited with how it came out!
This Christmas Eve I have a really yummy gluten free meal planned. We will be starting with gluten free calamari, a stromboli recipe that's been in the family for years, and then I'm making homemade gluten free shrimp scampi ravioli as our main course. For dessert, you know I am serving these Gluten Free Italian Rainbow Cookies alongside some other Christmas favorites! I'm so grateful to have so many refined sugar free dessert recipes in my arsenal these days. As I reflect back on this last year, I am a little shocked at just how many refined sugar free dessert recipes I have been able to whip up in such a short amount of time. I guess you could say I'm a little obsessed! Once you make these Gluten Free Italian Rainbow Cookies, I know you'll be obsessed, too!
Here is what you need to make these Gluten Free Rainbow Cookies
- 8x8 Baking Pans: Most recipes for Italian Rainbow Cookies require you to use jelly roll pans, but by the time I got around to testing this recipe, I forgot to get these. Then I thought to myself, how many people really have jelly roll pans laying around?! Not many I'm sure! If you do have 3 8x8 pans, that is ideal, but if not this will just take you a little bit more time as you will need to alternate between baking each layer.
- Almond Paste: I've made it even easier for you to make yourself by using almond flour rather than the traditional way of making almond paste, which starts by blanching almonds and blitzing them into almond meal in a food processor. You can also buy almond paste if you really don't feel like going through the steps to make it, but it's so simple I think you ought to DIY if you can!
- Food Coloring: I only use Color Kitchen Foods food coloring these days. They are made using plant based ingredients, are gluten free, vegan, and artificial dye free. Allergy and gut friendly, these are a must have in any paleo/gluten free/low fodmap baker's kitchen!
- Granulated Monkfruit: First, let's discuss. What IS monkfruit anyway?! Monkfruit, or Luo Han Guo, is actually a gourd native to Southern China + Northern Thailand. The plant is harvested for its fruit extract, called mogrosides, which create a sweetness almost 200 times sweeter than regular cane sugar. The benefits of using monkfruit sweetener as opposed to white cane sugar are plentiful! Monkfruit sweetener is an unrefined sugar, meaning it has not gone through a chemical process which generally removes any nutrients the sugar cane provides. Unrefined sugars still maintain their nutritional profile, though it should be noted, sugar is sugar! Unrefined sugars generally have a lower glycemic index, however, and monkfruit in particular contains 0g of calories + carbohydrates, making this appropriate for all diets including paleo + keto.
This recipe is one you should definitely read and re-read the steps for before attempting as it is slightly more advanced than most of the recipes I share. Don't let that scare you though, it is truly simple, there are just many steps that are important to understand along the way!
Gluten Free Italian Rainbow Cookies - A Refined Sugar Free Dessert
For the Almond Paste
- 1 cup blanched almond flour
- 1/2 cup powdered monkfruit sugar or powdered sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 large egg white
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
For the Italian Rainbow Cookies
- 8oz Almond Paste
- 2 1/2 sticks butter, cut into pieces + softened
- 2 cups gluten free 1:1 baking flour
- 1 cup granulated monkfruit or unrefined cane sugar
- 4 large eggs, room temperature, separate yolks from whites
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 packet Color Kitchen Foods Pink Food Color
- 1 packet Color Kitchen Foods Green Food Color
Filling + Assembly
- 1 jar Raspberry Jam
- 10 oz chocolate
Make the Almond Paste
- Using a food processor with the blade attachment, add almond flour, powdered sugar + salt and pulse until mixed.
- Add in almond extract and egg white and continue pulsing until a dough forms.
- Remove the dough from the food processor, roll into a log and wrap in plastic wrap, storing in the fridge until ready to use. The almond paste can be prepared ahead and refrigerated up to 10 days prior to using. Recipe makes approx. 8oz of almond paste. You will use all of it for these cookies.
Prepare the Gluten Free Italian Rainbow Cookies
- Position oven racks on upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350F. Grease and flour 8x8 baking pans or line with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine almond paste and 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp of monkfruit sweetener. Mix on medium speed until small crumbles form.
- Next begin adding softened butter a few pieces at a time, continuing to mix on medium speed until well combined. Next, beat in egg yolks, vanilla, and almond extract until smooth. The batter will be pretty thick which is normal.
- In a separate mixing bowl, sift 2 cups of flour and 1/2 tsp of salt together. Gradually add to batter, mixing on low speed until combined.
- In another bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Using an electric mixer or the whisk attachment on your stand mixer is best rather than doing this by hand. Once egg whites are frothy, beat in additional 2 tbsp of granulated monkfruit + continue to whisk until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter using a silicone spatula, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. The batter will feel a little difficult to work with but will become easier and fluffier as you add the egg whites. It will still be slightly dense once the egg whites are fully incorporated.
- Next, evenly distribute the batter into 3 separate bowls. Mine weighed approximately 350g each, but you can eyeball this step if you do not have a kitchen scale.
Color the Batter
- Add 1 packet of pink coloring to one bowl, 1 packet of green to another, and leave the third bowl plain. Using a silicone spatula or mixing spoon, fold in coloring packets until fully combined.
Bake the Layers
- Transfer each of the batters to three separate parchment lined 8x8 baking pans. Dip an offset spatula in water and use it to spread the batter evenly around the pan, ensuring you get it into the corners of the pan. Smooth out the tops.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Note: if you are using glass pans, baking time will take slightly longer, closer to 12-15 minutes.
- When finished, allow cakes to cool completely on wire racks.
Assemble the Layers
- Once cool, place the green layer onto a cool cookie sheet or cutting board to use as a base. Gently spread a thin layer of jam on top. Carefully slide the plain layer atop the green and gently spread another thin layer of jam on top. Slide pink layer on top.
- Carefully cover the cake with plastic wrap and place a second clean pan on top. Top the pan with heavy objects like cans or bags of flour to weigh down the layers. Refrigerate 4 hours up to overnight.
Add the Chocolate Layer
- After cake has chilled, remove plastic wrap and carefully trim any uneven edges. Flip onto a cooling rack so the green layer is now on the top. Place the cooling rack atop a parchment lined cookie sheet to catch any mess.
- Melt chocolate in a heat proof bowl resting above a pot of simmering water (this creates a double boiler). Carefully pour over cake. Dip an offset spatula into the simmering water and use it to evenly spread the chocolate over top of and alongside the cake.
Cut the Italian Rainbow Cookies
- Using a sharp knife, cut the cookies into 25 pieces; 5 rows across, 5 rows up and down. If you want clean edges, dip your knife in hot water and clean with a towel in between cuts.
- Store in an airtight container up to 1 week at room temperature.
- Note: if you are using glass pans, baking time will take slightly longer, closer to 12-15 minutes.