You may remember that my mom lived in Uruguay for 12 years while her parents were missionaries in the capital city of Montevideo. As I was growing up, she shared a few tasty treats with us from that culture, including today’s treat – alfajores! I’m going to be demonstrating them for the upcoming International Festival of Raleigh (September 19-21), so last week I made a practice batch.
Alfajores are a shortbread-like cookie sandwiched together with dulce de leche, a caramelized sweetened condensed milk. The first step in this recipe is to make the dulce de leche (it can also be purchased in latino grocery stores).
You can find various recipes online for making dulce de leche. Let me just say that we usually boil it in the can, unopened and submerged in the boiling water. I’m not recommending that you try that, as it can potentially explode if you leave the pot untended and let the water level drop!
However you get there, dulce de leche is this wonderful creamy caramel spread that is delicious on toast, as pretzel dip or ice cream sauce – or just straight off the spoon :) Or try one of my mom’s salted caramel chocolate cupcakes at Shank’s Bakery – a chocolate cupcake with dulce de leche filling, yum!
You want the dulce de leche to be very thick, in fact the picture shown just above was still too thin and running out of the cookies when I tried to assemble them. Once I cooked it a little longer over a double boiler, it got thicker and a deeper brown, and worked a lot better.
10 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/3 c. flour
1/2 c. cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add one egg and mix until incorporated. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, and baking powder – add gradually to the butter mixture. Finally, stir in the lemon zest and vanilla.
Roll out to about 1/4-inch thickness. Dough will be soft – if too soft to work, you can chill it briefly to make it easier to work with. Use a little flour on the board and rolling pin to keep it from sticking.
Cut out rounds of the desired size and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned on the bottom, but still white on top. Remove to cooling rack.
The final trick is that you should be very gentle while spreading this extra-thick dulce de leche on fragile cookies that will break with too much pressure. Take your time and it will be ok. If a few of them may break, but those can be the chef’s spoils :) If you like, roll them in coconut on the edges. Enjoy these sweet and delicious cookies!