Melt-in-your-mouth cookies sandwiched with creamy dulce de leche. You’ll need to triple the batch – you might accidentally eat a whole pan of these in one sitting. # 97: Alfajores
These cookies are magic. Light and airy, but rich and creamy at the same time. The secret is: corn starch! Lots and lots of cornstarch. Did that surprise any of you? It caught me off guard the first time I used cake flour (which can be substituted with regular flour mixed with cornstarch.) Since cornstarch is used to thicken sauces, I originally just assumed it would make cookies gummy and dense. Apparently it damages the proteins in the flour, not allowing gluten strands to form, resulting in a delicate crumb. Like I said, magic!
This version of alfajores are traditionally from South America. They can be dusted with powdered sugar, coated in a thin chocolate coating or rolled of shredded coconut. One my coworkers brought a box of Havanna brand alfajores home from her trip to Argentina, and ohh my goodness I fell in love. I ate three of them before catching myself. They were covered in chocolate (which I can’t wait to try out) but I wanted to make the classic version first.
I wasn’t sure what the difference between dulce de leche (translates literally to “sweet of milk”) and caramel when I started reading these recipes. They both involve the chemical reaction of heating sugar, turning it into a nutty, golden syrup. There seem to be two main differences:
- The inclusion of dairy: Dulce de leche is made one of two ways – heating canned sweetened condensed milk, or heating full-fat milk with added sugar and vanilla. In both cases, milk is key! Caramel can be made with any type of dairy, from milk to heavy cream, but there are also versions of caramel sans dairy.
- The texture: Dulce de leche is typically very thick, whereas caramel can be varying levels of viscosity (usually it’s on the thinner side)
Essentially, caramel is much more flexible and has a wide range of results. Both are delicious. I’ll take either! I particularly love the gritty caramel sauce from Fenton’s Creamery in Oakland – I could eat it straight.
Sifting felt necessary for this recipe – no one wants a lumpy cookie!
Fluffy dough also means very soft and sticky. Don’t be afraid to dump the flour on your work surface before rolling these out! You can always knock excess flour off, but good luck peeling sticky dough off a counter. I “lightly” dusted the table and had to scrape it all off with my pastry scarper and re-roll. Lesson learned.
I’m not sure why they spread and lost their cute scalloped edges. . . I tried freezing the second pan before baking but it didn’t make a difference.
I added a tiny bit of cinnamon to my dulce de leche. I might put more next time, as the flavor didn’t come through as much as I wanted it to.
*drool* They might be too soft to send as Christmas gifts, but maybe the coating of chocolate protects them! To be determined.
Cookie recipe from: https://www.chowhound.com/recipes/alfajores-28373