Friday, April 1, 2011

Alfajores--Cookies from Across the Globe {How-To}

Alfajores, delicious little sandwhich cookies.

Many moons ago, I stumbled upon a blog with decedant desserts that began my obsession with French pastries.  Flagrantedelicia has a blog with pictures to boot that will make you fall in love with desserts from all over the world.  Her (and practically every other dessert blog) with make you green with envy with frame worthy photos posted all over.  It's a lovely place to visit when you are gloomy or so full of joy that you simply must share a dessert to express yourself.

Lately, I've been a mixture of the two.  The weather here has been cold and rainy and just plain depressing.  Like a record blizzard on the tiny abode known as my heart, the decisions ahead of me weigh heavily.  If the sun doesn't come out soon and melt the white blankets, the roof might cave in.  And who wants to go out in the cold?  I mean, besides crazy Northerners.  I'm a Southerner through and through.  Cold weather, snow--it's an excuse to stay in, snuggle, and relish in your depression.  Then, within hours, I remember the thousands of blessings I have.  How dare I hide under my down comforter and green velvet duvet?  I have a job, the most perfect husband God ever made (for me), and a little talent that allows me to share blips of happiness with tons of people known as dessert.  With that thought, I can hear rhythmic pattters of melting snow outside the window.  It's time to make cookies. 

Let's see if there is a reason to pawn 50 something cookies on someone...

This week at the lab, our department has been hosting several canidates for a new professor position.  We do our best to swoon the individuals with how lovely our university is, how cool our town is, and how interesting our research is.  It's quite facinating really.  Putting so many socially awkward individuals in the same room is really a hoot.  Don't take it as an insult.  It's just how many scientifically minded individuals are.  Give us a break!  We spend hours, days, decades completely focused on our work.  Trying to convince everyone in our perspective communities how important our research is.  So, after getting an email from the department about a free lunch to meet with one of the canidates for the grad students, I offered to make cookies. 

Honestly, I don't think anyone cares if I make cookies because most of us are "watching our diets", but if I keep them at home, I'll devore them all.  They really are a unique treat.  Now that I've forced you to read a page's worth of unnecessry insight into my messy head.  Here you go. 

Alfajores are a Spanish or Latin American treat.  As I said, I first saw them on this blog.  Aren't her pictures and posts exquisite?  Two crispy cookie biscuits sandwiching dulce de leche or caramel filling then covered in chocolate.  Yes, please!  I knew then I had to attempt them sometime.  I scoured various recipes across the web (they're aren't many) and blended them all together to get my own.  Some people have said these cookies are involved and too difficult.  Personally, they are easier than decorated sugar cookies.  I also included even the ugly pictures of them because I think it's important to know that no one is perfect, not every cookie is perfect, and it's a learning process.  It's easy to forget that when you look at other food blogs.

Dulce de Leche Filling
1-2 cans of (fat-free) sweetened condensed milk

Heat oven to 425 degrees F
Pour contents of the cans into a deep pie plate, cake pan, or casserole dish.  Cover with aluminum foil, crinkled high on the sides/top of the plate.  Place inside a large broiler pan and pour hot water into it until it reaches half of the pie plate sides.  Aluminum foil should not be touching the water.  Place in oven.  Cook for 80 minutes, checking for and adding more water to the larger pan as needed about every 20 minutes.  Cook for the full 80 minutes or until there is a lovely golden brown color in the dulce de leche.

OR you can boil the whole can in simmering water for 2 hours, unopened.  YOU CANNOT LET THE WATER IN EITHER SCENARIO EVAPORATE COMPLETELY!  The result is yucky, burned milk.
Can be made a couple days ahead if necessary and kept refridgerated. 

Alfajor Cookie
1 cup of wheat flour
1 cup of all purpose bleached flour (or white)
1 cup of cornstarch
1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 cup of butter
2/3 cup of sugar (I'm going to try it later with just a smidge less sugar to see if that works too)
1 egg and 2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract or lemon zest
1 Tablespoon of vanilla extract

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Meanwile, sift all dry ingredients together.  When butter mixture is fluffly, add eggs, yolks, and flavorings one at a time, fully incorporating into mixture before adding the next ingredient.  Next, slowly add the flour mixture into butter mixture.  Mix well.

Take two pieces of wax paper and lay on your counter.  Place half of the dough onto each piece and cover with another piece of wax paper.  Roll out the dough and refridgerate until firm, about an hour, or longer if you like.  This saves a mess on the counter, reduces your contact with the dough and is just easier.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Then take a small round cookie cutter, about 1.5inches across and cut out cookies and place on either parchment covered cookie sheets or silpat covered cookie sheets.  Re-roll the unused dough between the wax paper and refridgerate or flash freeze each time.  The dough should be firm at all times.  If it isn't, stick the cookie sheet in the fridge/freezer until it is.  It keeps the cookies looking perfect.

Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, just as the edges begin to brown. The bottoms look like the pic on the right.  Under cooking makes a VERY delicate cookie.  But still tasty.

Let them cool at least 5 minutes on the sheet then move to a cookie rack until fully cooled.  Then add dollops of filling to two similarly sized cookies and lightly press.

I then refrigerated them again because as the filling warms the cookies slide on one another.  Then I melted some white chocolate or semisweet chocolate over a double broiler on the stove and dipped the cookies in them.  My chocolate was not tempered to save time and effort.  I tried to cover them competely in chocolate but the result was an ugly cookie as seen lelow and at the bottom.  I'll try finding a better way to do it so they look perfect.the ones with lots of filling over flowing I surrounded in sweet flaked coconut.  Others I just dusted powdered sugar on, which is also customary.  I even tried some fancy pictures like the other blogs, but since I have such a simple camera...

The ugly ones.  I was FORCED to eat them.  :)

I'm happy to say they were devored.  Even the grad students from across the globe loved them.  Success!
I'm making more for church now!

1 comment:

  1. Libby, They are so delicious. Thank you for providing the recipe. Adnan