A few years ago my daughter Sam traveled through out South America with a girlfriend for several months. As a parent it was agonizing not knowing from one day to the next where she was or if she was ok, but what a great life experience she had going on that trip. From Colombia to Peru, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina…. she had so many unforgettable moments, saw amazing sites and got to try the different foods (and exceptional wines) throughout the various countries. One thing she brought home was Dulce de Leche. How could I have never had this yummy, gooey, delectable treat! My husband Mark and I had it on ice cream every night not to mention on banana’s, french toast, cookies and even by itself right out of the jar. Sam told me about a popular cookie that she found in Argentina with shortbread and dulce de leche that she absolutely loved… Alfajores. Knowing what a cookie fiend I am, she tried to bring me a sample but it just didn’t make the long trip home. When I started my company, The Last Crumb, I knew that Alfajores had to be a part of the menu. In looking at more traditional recipes I found the shortbread to be heavier and more lard based. I ended up using my traditional Scottish shortbread recipe adapted from allrecipes.com and because I love salty sweet I ended up adding a kiss of sea salt on the rim of the cookie. Those of you who love salted caramels are especially going to love this. I have a customer who visits me at the farmers market, that calls me her crack dealer. She craves these Alfajores with a twist and comes by regularly to buy them. The toughest part of making this cookie is making the dulce de leche. I’ve made it several different ways as well as had an explosion of dulce de leche in my oven which was not fun to clean up. I’ll definitely share my thoughts on each of the methods with you.
Can’t wait to hear what you think!
SUGARED SHORTBREAD WITH DULCE DE LECHE AND A KISS OF SEA SALT (ALFAJORES WITH A TWIST!)
SCOTTISH SHORTBREAD with Sea Salt:
3 Cups Flour
2/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 – 1/2 Cups Unsalted Butter (softened to room temperature)
2 Tbsp Sea Salt (Course Crystals)
additional 1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
Put 3 C flour, 2/3 C Sugar and 1- 1/2 C butter in mixing bowl and mix on low until combined. The flour does not take long to combined in with butter and sugar. Typically a minute or two. Do not over mix. Divide into two. Turn out dough onto a piece of parchment paper, and roll into a 2-inch-diameter log. Roll the log in the parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough. Refrigerate at least an hour or two or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) Remove log from parchment. Let soften slightly about 5 – 10 minutes. Sprinkle 1 Tpsp of the sea salt on parchment paper. Roll log in parchment paper sanded with sea salt. Slice the log into 1/4″ thick rounds. Place rounds on baking sheet lined with parchment paper (don’t you just LOVE parchment paper!), spacing 1 inch a part, sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Bake until pale golden brown on the edges. Cool.
Sandwich dulce de leche between two cookies and let stand for approx an hour or until dulce de leche is set. You can roll in toasted coconut, or top with melted dark chocolate and a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt flakes for lovely presentation. Let chocolate set before serving.
DULCE DE LECHE:
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
You can find a bunch of different ways to make dulce de leche on the internet and you can also buy it pre-made at the grocery store. I did a taste test with home-made vs the pre-made and found the pre-made didn’t have half the flavor of the dulce de leche I made myself. In making it, I’ve tried the method where you place a 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, that’s been punctured twice on the top, in a small pot of with water that comes up to approx one inch from the top of the can. You keep it at med-high heat for approx 3-4 hours depending if you like your dulce de leche soft or firm. (yes that’s what I said… 3-4 hours!) We want it firm for our cookies, so 4 hours minimum. You have to keep checking back often to replace the evaporated water. The key is to NOT let any water get into the top of the punctured can. Once done, carefully remove can from water. Once cooled, open can and put dulce de leche into a bowl. Stir until smooth. Refrigerate. Personally… I would not recommend this method. I found it to be extremely time consuming and it was difficult to keep the water out of the can. Not to mention you can’t see what’s going on inside the can. I’ve had it way to runny and I’ve even burned it. Bottom line… for how much time you commit ,I found this method was not consistent.
I’ve found the easiest way to make dulce de leche is in the crock pot. You place the can or cans directly in your crock pot and cover with water. (approx 1/2″ over the can) Set on low and cook for 8 hours. Each crock pot is different so you’ll need to experiment. You may need to cook it longer or shorter or put the setting on high if it’s an older crock pot. Again you won’t be able to see the color so you’ll probably have to make it a few time to get it right. Turn off crock pot, let water cool a little bit before carefully removing cans with tongs. If you let it sit in the water for hours remember it will continue to cook. Once cooled, open can and put dulce de leche into a bowl. Stir until smooth. Refrigerate. The great thing about this method is you turn on the crock pot and walk away. There’s no evaporated water to deal with, no stirring, etc. This is the EASIEST way I’ve found however not my favorite.
Personally I like the taste and even the texture best when I cook the the sweetened condensed milk over a double boiler. I find it takes on more of a gooey caramel texture then the two methods above. I’ll warn you ahead of time it’s extremely time consuming and really can’t be left alone. However, I like this best because I need to see the color and texture while cooking to ensure consistency and taste for my cookies. For this method you pour the sweetened condensed milk into the top part of a small double boiler. Fill the bottom pan with water and put on medium / high heat. Do not over fill the water in the bottom pan because if water over boils and gets into the sweetened condensed milk it’s ruined. Here comes the time consuming part…. You must stir this every few minutes to keep it from burning. If it burns on the sides or bottom of the pan all those burned pieces end up as chunks in your yummy dulce de leche. The other thing is that the water evaporates pretty quickly. You need to replace that water regularly. Do not let it evaporate all together or the dulce de leche will burn. (not to mention the burning pan smells awful.) To get to a nice firm consistency for the cookie I find this takes about 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Once complete, pour into a bowl and let sit for several hours to cool. Refrigerate.
Enjoy my Alfajores with a twist! Again, I look forward to your thoughts.
The Last Crumb