Alfajores (Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies)

It's incredible how food can evoke memories that are buried deep within your mind. Things that you thought your brain could never dig up again can resurface just by the smell, taste and feel of certain foods tingling your taste buds and your senses. Every so often when my parents return from a trip to Taiwan they will bring home some candied sour plums. The second I pop them into my mouth, I remember a few seconds of a memory where my Grandfather was pushing me on a swing when I was around 3 years old. We were sharing a little bag of candied sour plums on that winter's morning. It's such a short, but precious memory to me and I love that I remember it when I think about the taste of those sweet and sour dried plums.

But today I'm not sharing a recipe about plums with you. Today I'm going to talk about Dulce de Leche. Some of you may have heard about it before, it's basically a caramel made of condensed milk. You can buy it pre-made in a jar, but it is unbelievably easy and cheaper to make at home. It is amazing on its own, but today I'm going to show you how to make Alfajores or ... Dulce de Leche sandwich cookies.

The first time I came across these fantastic little treats was the year after I finished school. I was at a party at my highschool bestie Beth's house one Saturday night. During our highschool years, she always threw the most fun and most memorable parties at her house. Nancy, our other partner in crime, had been cooking away in the kitchen for hours while the rest of us were working on a hangover and swimming in the pool. All of us kept nagging her about when she would be done so she could join us, but she kept assuring us it would be done soon and it would be worth the wait. When they were finally ready, I remember us popping the piping hot little cookies in our mouths. The thin buttery shortbread crumbled in our mouths and the smooth sweet caramel warmed our tastebuds. It was the most amazing little thing we'd ever had and I remember us all, almost about to cry with joy while Nancy smiled and nodded with satisfaction. That's another precious food memory I'll never forget.

This recipe will make approximately 50 Alfajores
You will need - 
  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 2 1/2 cups plain flour (sifted)
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar (sifted)
  • 225g unsalted butter (cubed and softened)
  • 1 inch round cookie cutter
1. Pierce 3 holes into the top of the condensed milk can. It's really important to do this or the can could explode from the heat and pressure.

2. Put the can into a pot, fill it with water until it's about 3cm from the top of the can. Bring the water to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. I placed a rag under the can to stop the can from rattling. Cook the condensed milk for 3-4 hrs, constantly refilling the pot with water and making sure no water gets inside the can. For a soft dulce de leche cook for 2 hours, for a firm cook for 4 hours. I cooked mine for 3 hrs.

3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

4. Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine flour, sugar and butter. Pulse until dough comes together into a ball. If the dough is too sticky add a little more flour so that you can shape the soft dough into a ball. Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.

5. Sprinkle some flour onto your work surface and roll the dough about 3mm thick. Using a the cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Bring the dough scraps together and gently press into a ball. Re-flour your work surface, re-roll the ball to cut more rounds.

6. Bake the cookies until they are golden and firm, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely, about 25 minutes.

7. Spread about 1 teaspoon of the dulce de leche on the flat side of a cookie and sandwich with the flat side of another cookie. Place the cookies on a platter, dust them with icing sugar, and serve. 

Be careful when opening the can, its super hot inside. The top layer
will still be condensed milk, but dig a little further and scoop out
your delicious caramel!

Transfer your Dulce de Leche into an airtight container and it will last about 3-4 weeks in the fridge. Try it on crepes, tarts, icecream... anything! Store your alfajores in an airtight container and they'll stay fresh for 5 to 7 days.

You can cover them with chocolate or roll them in desiccated coconut, but I like these for their simplicity and uncomplicated flavours. And because, that's how I remember them from that crazy party night. Thanks Nancy!

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