Friday, November 6, 2009
It seems like my excuses to bake are getting more and more ridiculous. This time, it's something along the lines of "I made two cans of dulce de leche and I can't go on eating it on toast every morning for a month even though it tastes great. Therefore I must bake alfajores." I'm glad that I decided to bake them, but another baking glitched occured!
On a whim, I decided to make dulce de leche again, using the boiling can method. I've tried the oven method, but I think that it's a more waste of energy as the oven has to be on for a long time, whilst the boiling method allows you to make a few cans at once AND I can actually do homework whilst it cooks by itself! Win-win! Yes, some say that boiling the cans are prone to explosion - but fortunately it hasn't happened to me yet, so I'm sticking to the pot method.
But the first time I made dulce de leche, I was so anxious for the result I forgot to let the cans cool before opening them, so the moment my can opener cut through the top, a squirt of hot, sweet, sticky caramelised milk spewed out. Thank God it hit the wall and not my face.
So one day, me being a less-than-attentive student during English class, I got distracted and typed in 'alfajores' into food blog search, spending a a good 15minutes sifting through the pages until I found a recipe that sounded like my imagination of an alfajor - a slightly crunchy shortbread with a tender crumb, melding into the lovely sweet, caramelly filling.
The components of my dream alfajor were made without any problems. The cookies were perfectly fine - buttery, tender and all. The dulce de leche was heavenly - I ate a good portion of a can just by the spoon or on saltine crackers. But my final product was a bit disastrous.
I have no idea why, but after I sandwiched the cookies together, the filling seemed to 'melt' and a few seconds later, the cookies were sliding off each other! I frantically tried adjust them properly, and used much less filling in my remaining ones - but they still slipped off. I have no idea why, maybe my cookies weren't completely cool yet. Or maybe because I store my dulce de leche in fridge, the temperature difference was too big so it softened quickly. Aghh - I was a bit annoyed at that point as my dream alfajores have been ruined, not to mention that there was dulce de leche dripping everywhere :(
But despite their ugly appearance, the alfajores were really delicious! It was everything I imagined it to taste like. To make them more easy to handle and eat (as by now, the filling has leaked to coat the sides sticky), I placed each alfajor into a paper muffin case to give out at school.
Some friends asked what the filling was, and I think I answered a tad too enthusiastically as I started to babble on about how good dulce de leche is, how easy it is to make, and urging everyone to make it. I also had a very intersting conversation in Biology class where I insisted on the correct pronounciation of 'alfajores' (ah-faa-ho-res) and 'dulce de leche' (dul-chay-de-lay-chay), as well as asking my friend who studies Spanish how to say "Ugly But Tasty Alfajores"...if I had remembered what she said, it would have been the title of this post!
Adapted from Desert Candy
Makes around 16 sandwich cookies
115g butter, room temperature
1tbsp dark rum
1/2tsp vanilla essence
140g all-purpose flour
1tsp baking powder
around 1/2 cup dulce de leche, for filling (see below)
1. In a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the egg, rum and vanilla and beat until well blended.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, cornstarch, salt and baking powder. Beat into butter mixture until well blended. Press the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 170º C. Unwrap dough. On a lightly floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll out dough to about 1/8 inch thick. With a floured, 2- to 3-inch round cutter, cut out cookies. Place about 1 inch apart on greased or lined baking sheets. Gather excess dough into a ball, re-roll, and cut out remaining cookies. Chill cookies in the freezer for around 5 minutes until dough is firm.
4. Bake until cookie edges just begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer them to racks to cool completely.
5. Turn half the cooled cookies bottom side up and spread each with around a teaspoon dulce de leche. Top with remaining cookies. Cookies are best on the second day, they keep well for 2 weeks in an air-tight container at room temperature.
Dulce de Leche
Place one can of condensed milk (or any number of cans you can fit in your pot) into a large pot and fill with water until the cans are completely submerged. Turn on the stove and let the water boil. After water has boiled, turn down to low heat and let the heat work its magic - remove after 2.5 hours. Make sure the cans are always completely submerged during cooking.
Let the cans cool completely before opening to avoid hot sticky caramel landing on yourself or anywhere else. Then, take a spoon and eat a spoonful of bliss before transferring the rest into a jar to keep in the fridge.