Alfajores with Homemade Dulce de Leche

Oh my oh my. That’s two “oh mys,” one for the alfajores and one for the dulce de leche. Although CC provided some suggestions on where I could buy alfajores, my interest in making dulce de leche got the best of me so I decided to make these from scratch. Besides, it was a rainy and rather chilly day, the dogs were napping but I wasn’t sleepy.

Apparently there are two ways to make “homemade” dulce de leche, one from a can of sweetened condensed milk and the other one from milk and sugar. The rain nudged me towards the latter since I didn’t have a can of condensed milk on hand. I had evaporated milk (of which I didn’t know why, I think it was for pumpkin pie) but that’s another story. Too lazy to trek down to the market in the rain, scratch it was. Timely considering I had recently pulverized some granulated white sugar to make superfine sugar. I also had vanilla sugar but I thought of it in hindsight and don’t really know if it would have added to the flavor of the cookie or the dulce de leche.

With quite a few alfajores recipes to choose from, I decided on recipe girl’s version with a few modifications. I wanted to use a recipe that included cornstarch since I read it’s suppose to help make the cookies light, which is what I was after. The dough came together quickly and it was quite easy to work with. The trick is not to overwork the dough to avoid tough cookies.

I used a 2-inch cutter (it was actually just under 2″) to make the disks. I rolled it to about 1/4-inch thick but I think it could be just a tad thinner the next go-around. I like the little specks of lemon zest in the dough.

Here’s what it looked like after coming out of the oven (325°F for 12 minutes).

I was playing around with the baking time and 12 minutes turned out perfectly firm cookies without browning. I left one sheet in for 13 minutes and the bottom was much browner.  Yeah, only 1 minute difference. So I recommend checking the cookies at 12 minutes, should be firm but not browned. It’s okay if the edges are just starting to turn brown. This shot is a little more closer to what the cookie color I was after.

While the cookie dough was in the fridge getting its 2-hour rest, I started on the dulce de leche (DDL). Everything into the pot except the vanilla extract. Here’s what it looked like after 30 minutes. I didn’t do the rolling simmer but a “barely” simmer, which requires more time. I don’t know if the texture changes but apparently a rolling simmer cuts down the time to about half.

One hour later. You can seem the foam building up around the edges. I skimmed it off as much as I could. See the center? No rolling simmer, just a barely simmer.

Two hours later. The picture doesn’t really show too much of a difference in color although it was definitely getting darker. More barely simmering action here.

Three hours later. I’m really starting to think a rolling simmer would have been easier but I’ve come this far and the caramel was starting to get thick.

Ugh, finally 3 hours and 15 minutes later. I’m finally happy with the color and the consistency. This is what it looked like after it was completely cooled. By this time, I kept grabbing new spoons out of the drawer since I couldn’t help eating the dulce de leche off the spoon I was using. It was also fun licking the spatula after I was done using it.

A bit messy but man, is this good! Here are some assembled ones with a dash of powdered sugar on top. I like it like this the best although naked is good too.

After all 30 cookies were assembled, I still had a bit less than half cup of DDL left. Don’t you worry your pretty little head. I’ll make sure this gets put to good use.

Perhaps one day I’ll try making DDL using the sweetened condensed milk just to do a taste comparison. If I’m feeling ambitious, I might do both method at the same time for a real side-by-side taste test. But in the meantime, I’ll just enjoy these alfajores and chase them with a side spoonful of DDL.

Dulce de Leche

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of milk
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda

Directions:

In a heavy 4-quart saucepan mix together the milk, sugar, vanilla bean (if using), and baking soda and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered. Stir occasionally but do not re-incorporate the foam that appears on the top of the mixture.

If using vanilla bean, remove it after 1 hour. Continue to cook for another 1-2 hours until the mixture thickens and turns a dark caramel color. You should have about 1 to 1 1/2 cup of mixture. If using vanilla extract, add it at this point and mix.

Remove from heat and let cool. Cover and refrigerate.

Alfajores (adapted from RecipeGirl.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons brandy or cognac (I used Amaretto because I didn’t have the other two)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest, freshly grated (I used the zest from a small Meyer lemon)
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions:

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy and creamy. Add egg yolks and mix. Add vanilla, brandy and lemon zest; mix well and set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together flour, cornstarch, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add dry mixture to butter mixture and mix just until combined and the dough is soft. Do not add any extra flour. You can add a few drops of milk if the dough appears crumbly. Form into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Working with half of the dough at a time (keep the other half refrigerated) on a floured work surface, roll out dough to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Cut into 2-inch rounds and transfer to prepared baking sheets. Repeat rolling/cutting with 2nd half of chilled dough. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until done. The cookies should be dry and but not brown. The edges can just start to turn brown a bit but don’t bake any longer than that. Remove and cool on rack.

When cookies are cool, match them up into pairs of like-sizes. Turn one cookie over and spread a dollop of dulce de leche onto the flat part of the cookie. Place its partner on top (flat side down) and gently press so that the caramel comes to the edges. Roll edges in coconut (option) and place on rack to set. Continue with the rest of the cookie pairs. When ready to serve, sift a light layer of powdered sugar over the tops of the cookies (options).

 

6 Comments

    • Oh Mike, the dulce de leche is so addictive. It’s like crack caramel! I like this so much better than regular caramel since the flavor has more depth and isn’t toothachingly sweet like some. I suppose that’s the good thing about homemade because the sugar can be adjusted to taste.

    • Thanks CC! I have to say, these taste better the second day. The dulce de leche set up nicely. Yeah, the 3-hour thing kind of eliminates it as a spur of the moment thing.I think I’ll make double batches from now on if I’m putting all that time into it.

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