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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sweet Treats Saturday: Alfajores

To be completely honest, I'd never heard of Alfajores until I saw this recipe come up on Brown Eyed Baker.  But after chatting with some friends who had and really imagining the concept... shortbread cookies with dulce de leche filling sandwiched in-between... well, why wouldn't I want to try them?

These cookies are so easy to make.  They only use four common ingredients and the dulce de leche filling.  You can buy the filling already made in a can - commonly found in the baking section of your grocery store.  Or if you're like me and don't have any on hand (and are too lazy to run out to the store to get it) you can make it yourself.  In actuality, it's easy to make, just very time consuming.  It really is worth it to get the ready made product but my closest grocery store doesn't stock it and I didn't feel like driving the extra 15 minutes to go to a different store.  I know, lame excuse, but it was good practice.

This recipe is very easy to make and has a great flavor.  The shortbread cookies aren't too sweet, so paired with the dulce de leche filling it's a wonderful combination.

Also, as I've mentioned, I don't have a large food processor so I use a handy pastry blender for recipes like this.  It seems to work fine, just make sure you blend everything to the consistency as stated in the directions (e.g. coarse meal).  Also, I don't have a round cookie cutter. I know, weird. I keep meaning to pick one up but I forget every time. So I just used other household goods like glassware with a small mouth opening (champagne glass or juice glass).

Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker, modified for no food processor
Makes approximately 18 sandwich cookies depending on size
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4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (basically 3 sticks), chilled and cut into pieces
1/2 cup water

1. Sift together flour and powdered sugar.  I did the next part by hand with a pastry blender but the original recipe recommends a food processor (again, I don't have one big enough for these quantities, but I tried to make do with what I had).  Blend together the flour and sugar mixture with the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Pour in the water in a slow stream and mix until the dough comes together, about 20 seconds. Split dough in half and mold each into a flat disk. Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

3. On a well-floured surface, roll out one disk of dough to under a 1/4 inch of thickness.  Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter (or in my case, the mouth of a champagne flute), cut out rounds from the dough and transfer to prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with other disk of dough.  Gather up scraps from the batches and roll out one more time to cut out remaining dough.

4.  Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

5.  Spread 1 to 2 teaspoons of dulce de leche on the bottom of half of the cookies.  Top with the remaining cookies.  Dust with powdered sugar to finish.  It's best to eat the finished cookies on the same day that they're assembled.

Note: If you do not have dulce de leche you can make it yourself by taking a can of sweetened, condensed milk and placing it in a heat proof bowl.  Make a double boiler by placing into a pan with simmering water.  Cover the top bowl and cook, stirring ever 15 minutes or so for about an hour and a half - until the milk is thick and amber in color.  Remove from heat and beat with a wooden spoon to smooth it out. Transfer to a clean bowl and refrigerate until cool.

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