Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My New Love Affair

I probably won't always be able to pick out a main dish and a dessert for each country but I decided to try one out this time around. For a couple years now, I've had a shy, flirty affair with alfajores. We've seen each other in restaurants, they've always looked so enticing up on their tray, but I've cast my eyes down and walked way, always resisting temptation. Sunday, I gave in to temptation.

Honestly, I don't think anyone can blame me. What better way is there to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon than bustling around in your kitchen? And when you know you will be treated to a sweet little something at the end? If I could spend every day like that, I would. Anyway, I took the opportunity to try out a couple recipes: one I've seen pop up every now and then for dulce de leche, and the other from http://argentinastravel.com for alfajores. I'm not sure if Argentina can claim rights to the cookie or dulce de leche, but the treats are definitely among their traditional eats.

Dulce de Leche

1 or several cans of sweetened condensed milk

Poke a small hole in the top of each can and set in a large pot. Fill the pot with water until just under the top of the cans. Boil water for approximately 1 1/2 to 3 hours, depending on desired consistency. Add more water to the pot as necessary to keep water level just under the top of the cans.

Cool cans, open, and enjoy!

Just a word about this recipe. I had to try it because it sounded so easy and so completely different than anything I've tried--not the result, but the cooking method. I've seen recipes that say to fully submerge cans (without poking the hole) but I was too scared of causing some explosion in my apartment that I opted for the slower method of allowing a release of potentially too much pressure. Shorter cooking times result in a runnier dulce de leche that would be perfect for drizzling over ice cream or cake or anything needing a topping. Longer cooking times yield firmer, if not solid, dulce de leche. I boiled two cans for 2 hours and produced the epitome of temptation, a slightly-firmer-than-pudding cream that is ideal for sandwich cookie filling, but also extremely difficult not to eat straight from the can.

The recipe pulled from argentinastravel.com says it's an adapted version of the recipe included in Argentina Cooks! by Shirley Lomax Brooks (which I believe may now be a book on my Christmas list...)


1 3/4 cups flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 lb butter (1 stick), at room temperature
1 tsp lemon zest (optional)
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 recipe dulce de leche
Grated sweetened coconut (optional)

Combine flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda in a bowl. Cut in the butter, then mix by hand until well incorporated. Work in the lemon zest and then mix in the egg yolks and vanilla. Shape the dough into 2 balls and chill for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 325*F. On a floured work surface, roll out each ball of dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut into 2-inch rounds 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 cookies are cool, spread a generous spoonful of dulce de leche on one cookie and top it with another. Press together gently.

For versions with coconut or nuts, roll the seam of the alfajor in shredded coconut or chopped nuts.

Before I pledge my love for these cookies, I have three recommendations. First, use the lemon zest, even though it's optional. Because of all the sugar from the butter cookie to the dulce de leche, I think the lemon zest adds a necessary hint of freshness to the cookie. I don't think it's a great enough amount to make you fully aware of citrus; these are still sweet, creamy cookies, not fruity. Second, I think refrigerating the dough for 2 hours is too long. I had to work with the dough a little longer to warm it up enough that it would roll out nicely. I think an hour should be sufficient time. Third, you technically only need one can of condensed milk to make enough dulce de leche for this recipe. I personally think you should throw in another can for good measure, but that's just so there's enough to taste "for quality assurance" during baking and throughout the rest of the day.

Now my ode to the alfajor: why did I wait so long to give in to temptation?! These really are so easy to make and so fantastically delicious! I've already said enough about the dulce de leche--really, it should be called dulce divino because it is just heavenly. Pared with the butter cookies, it's almost impossible to eat just one. The cookies themselves are soft but not chewy, which I think probably makes the best sandwich base because they have enough substance to stay together when you take a bite. I rolled mine in coconut and the final product looks so inviting and so festive, I can't wait to make these during Christmas... don't get me wrong, though, I'm not waiting that long before I make them again!


  1. Hi Noblecita!!! i found your blog in the net today and i hope you will travel all around the world!! :O) the cookies they look very delicious!!! thank you!!!

  2. ah, more pictures, more hungry ...

  3. These cookies were sooooo yummy!! Thanks for the taste!!!

  4. More recipes to try - they both look and sound great. I love your writing style too!

  5. Wow...those look so good! I might have to try and make these soon.

  6. Hola Jessica.....I don't open the cans of condensed milk to boil them...in fact, it is safer if you don't. What I do is use a larger pot - stock pot - place the cans in the bottom and then fill to a bit double the height of the cans with water. When it comes to a boil turn heat down to a slow boil and cook. This way there is no danger whatsoever of the cans exploding, since they will be covered with water at all times.
    I'm an old lady now and have cooked it this way all my life and my mother and grandmother before me.....we have not had any explosions in all these years.