Thursday, February 25, 2010

Alfajores and butter jewels

The weather in Colorado is just crazy. It can be 40 one day and snowing buckets the next. I'm so used to the limited precipitation here, that I'm downright appalled when it does. I even have to stop myself from getting grumpy when it gets all snowy and makes my bike messy and shushes up the roads. by remembering that it's supposed to snow in February. Getting soft.

They kind of look like hills with snow.

This is a little postponed, but the weekend of valentines day, my friend E and I got together and made an amazing array of cookies. 4 hours of sweat and toil netted us over 250 cookies, most of which were apparently devoured by E's co-workers the next day. She's made these cute butter jewels every valentines day for about 8 years, and I'm always looking for an excuse to bake something for a pre-destined audience.

E lived in Venezuela for a summer and is generally enthused about South America. On this occasion, she introduced me to alfajores. Dulce de leche sandwiched between two soft pillowy cookies. A perfect excuse to eat two cookies and some dulce de leche and call it one things. Not that I need such excuses. The dough was similar to chocolate chip cookie dough, but with slightly less butter and added orange juice and cocoa powder.

The well known, seemingly idiot-proof method for dulce de leche is to simmer a can of sweetened condensed milk in a saucepan for 2 hours. Apparently not idiot-proof enough for us at 5,000 ft, as ours was not nearly caramelized enough. Thanks to the genius of David Lebowitz (again), we also tried a second method: baking the milk in a water-insulated pyrex pan. This turned out so much better, even though we forgot to cover it with foil.

Just as we put it in the oven

After 2 hours. Whisk away!


adapted from Matt Bites
  • 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. For the dulce de leche, preheat the oven to 350. Nest a 9x9 pan in a larger pan (both glass or pyrex preferrably). Pour the sweetened condensed milk into the 9x9 and fill the larger pan with water to just above the level of the milk. Cover with tin foil and bake for 2 hours until golden and bubbly. Alternately, you could buy dulce de leche or make it by simmering the milk in the can for 2+ hours. When it's finished, whisk until smooth and cool.
  2. Combine flour baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, while stirring. Slowly add the dry mixture until combined. Pour in the milk, juice, and vanilla, and continue mix until dough is cohesive.
  4. Drop by tablespoons 2" apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Making them round here makes things easier later on.
  5. Bake for 14 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cool completely.
  6. Match the cookies up by shape and size and sandwich dulce de leche between
  7. Try not to eat them all in the first hour. (good luck)

Pillowy sandwiches of goodness

Our second cookie was butter jewels. I don't have the recipe, but that's just an excuse to make them again with E next year. She let me use her camera, which is not new, but is certainly better than my 5 year old point-and-shoot. I felt so powerful and in control. Needless to say, I may have to get a new camera sometime. I took pictures of just about everything in her house.

Someone couldn't wait until the cookies were baked. . .

Filling them with tasty jam

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