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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Alfajores



So I discovered what an alfajor was on a field trip to East Boston one day.  Does it shock you to hear that I signed up for a three day class on the food cultures of Boston?  Obviously not.  What did this entail, did you ask?  It was three days spent travelling through East Boston, Chinatown, and the North End talking about food, looking at food, buying food, and of course, eating food.  Best. Class. Ever.  So it was on our first day traipsing around East Boston that I ate food that was the most foreign to me.  We stopped in almost every little store, bakery, and restaurant to sample as much as possible.  East Boston has a huge Latin American culture, and we ate everything from empenadas to arepas to my new favorite cookie...the alfajor.  This amazing little cookie is made up of two shortbread wafers sandwiching a dollop of dulce de leche and then dusted with powdered sugar (if it's done up in the Peruvian style...apparently it is rolled in coconut in Argentina.)  This is quite possibly the most delicious cookie I've ever had.  I couldn't wait to go home and look up recipes for them.  Which I did...and they have made it into this year's Christmas baskets (because I really love them so very much.)

I followed the recipe exactly, but the only thing that I would change is that I would roll the dough out a little thinner...I thought that the wafers were a little too thick.  Other than that, I would change nothing.  I'd actually even make lindsor cookies with this recipe, swapping the dulce de leche for raspberry jam.  It would be perfect.  Also, don't worry about boiling the can of condensed milk...it went smoothly.  There were no explosions (I made sure to keep the cans covered in water the entire time.)  So enjoy the recipe and have a happy holiday with friends and family!

Alfajores
from A Cozy Kitchen
makes 25 mini-cookies

1 can sweetened condensed milk (label removed)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract done
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (for garnish)

In a large pot, fill with water to cover the can of sweetened condensed milk. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Let simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, making sure to add more water as necessary in order to keep the cans covered in water.  Remove the can of dulce de leche from the water and let cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350˙F. In a medium bowl combine flour and salt. In a stand-up mixer cream together butter, sugar and vanilla extract for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. As mixer is going, add in flour mixture and mix until combined. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

On a heavily floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. (The original recipe said 1/2-inch, but I do think that was a little too thick.)  The dough will be a little sticky so be sure to flour your roller, too. Using a 1 1/2-inch round cutter (or bigger if you'd like, but that will result in less cookies), cut out shortbread cookies and place on baking sheet. Poke a series of three holes, using a fork, in the center of each cookie. (I forgot to do this for my first few batches and it didn't make any difference.)  Transfer cookies to oven and bake for 10-12 minutes (mine needed 12), or until edges are slightly golden brown. Let cool on wire rack. To assemble the sandwiches, open the can of dulce de leche. Lay half of the shortbread cookies bottom-side up. I used a cake piper (but you can just spread it with a knife) to put about 1 teaspoon of the dulce de leche on half of the cookies.  Top with the other half and lightly press down until you’ve gone through all the cookies. Dust with powdered sugar.


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