Monday, October 25, 2010

An Argentine Treat

I grew up with an Argentine best friend, who always had the best after school snacks. Of course, she had the typical frozen bagel bites which she loved to heat up for the gang, but she always followed up the frozen gourmet with a special treat: alfajores, dulce de leche cookies from Argentina.

I had never thought to actually attempt to make them until the urge came over me to do something nice for my roommate, who always raves about the alfajores she ate when she was studying abroad in Argentina. I raked through hundreds of recipes online--apparently alfajores are all the rage on the food blogs these days--until I settled on this one (I trusted it because the alfajores looked like the right combo of soft but still cookie-like and it was a Spanish/English blog called "La Vida en Buenos Aires").

The result was heavenly, and the cookies worked as a highly effective bribe to get several friends to come visit and taste test. Even though it is a little more expensive than my typical recipe, most of the ingredients are things you'll probably have lying around. I would make this recipe a million times over.

ALFAJORES DE DULCE DE LECHE 
(DULCE DE LECHE SHORTBREAD COOKIES)


THE GOODS

1/4 pound butter (1 stick) at room temperature ($1.49 or less for 2 sticks)
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten ($1.29 for a dozen)
1 teaspoon vanilla ($4.79 for a large bottle - could be free if you have it)
1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest ($0.20)
1 cup corn starch ($1.30)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda ($1.55)
1 teaspoon baking powder ($1.39)
1 can of sweetened condensed milk ($1.09) - or a can of dulce de leche if you don't want to make it
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
Powdered sugar or grated coconut for dusting
Parchment paper or a nonstick baking sheet
*Optional:  2 tablespoon brandy or cognac (I didn't use it and they still turned out delicious)

The Grand Total: $13.10

THE WAY
*If you're making your own dulce de leche, start preparing it at least 3 hours in advance.

Dulce de Leche
Remove the label from your can of sweetened condensed milk. Place it in a large pot and pour in water until the can (still closed) is submerged. Remove the can. Place the pot of water on the stove over high heat until the water is boiling. When it starts to boil, carefully place in your can of milk and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot to reduce water evaporation. Simmer for 3-4 hours, refilling the water if it evaporates.


Then, remove the can and let it cool before you use it for the cookies.

If you're afraid of heating a sealed can, here's the "safe recipe" according to La Vida en Buenos Aires: Pour 1 can sweetened condensed milk into 9-inch pie plate. Cover with aluminum foil; place in larger shallow pan. Fill larger pan with hot water. Bake at 425 degrees F for 1 hour or until thick and caramel-colored. Beat until smooth.




 Cookies

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy and creamy. Add the egg yolks one by one. Add vanilla and brandy and mix well. Combine flour, cornstarch, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a bowl. Add the flour mix over the butter mix and work with your hands until the dough became soft. Do not add extra flour.

Wrap in saran wrap and chill for 2 hours.









Check out the strong hands using my makeshift rolling pin...
Go Bears!
(*Note: when I did this step, the dough was rock hard and crumbly and I was very worried about how the cookies would turn out. So I wet the dough with water to help it roll out easier. It worked and the cookies turned out perfect, so have no fear!) After the 2 hours, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. On a floured work surface, roll out dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch.





Cut into 2-inch rounds (I used a shot glass as a cookie cutter to make lil mini cookies) and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 





 
Bake for 15 minutes or until done. 

The cookies will be dry but not brown. When the cookies are cool, spread a spoonful of dulce de leche on one cookie and top it with another. Press together gently; dust with powdered sugar (as I did) or roll the seam of the alfajor in grated coconut. You can also dunk the whole thing in chocolate if you're feeling naughty.

Like eating a South American cloud....

3 comments:

  1. Could it be because you completed them? ;)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks , nice to see you like the recipe

    ReplyDelete