In Bilbao, there is an Argentinian bakery that sells alfajores – buttery, shortbread-y cookies filled with a thick layer of dulce de leche and dusted with confectioners sugar. Some are finished with sprinkles, shaved coconut or pistachios. Some are dipped in chocolate. All: seriously delicious. From the first time I tasted one, I knew that they would have to make an appearance on mi blog.
After a hectic couple of weeks during which I learned a ton (like the perfect way to cook cochinillo, or suckling baby pig), the restaurant is closed for two weeks of vacation. One of my Argentinian coworkers traveled home for the break and I insisted that he hit up his granny for her alfajores recipe. I was planning on waiting to publish this post until he returned with said recipe… but then I got anxious and scoured the interwebs for a recipe to share with you all.
During my days off, I’ve had time to bake up trays and trays of glorious alfajores, sprinkled with pistachios and shaved coconut and sea salt (obvies) and this wild, strawberry sugar I found … and dipped in dark chocolate (again, obvies).
Between these trays of alfajores, we went on a hike to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe , a 10th century hermitage near Bakio, a beach town outside of Bilbao. According to the post-10th century informational panel outside of the hermitage, fishermen and their families make pilgrimages to the hermitage every fall to ask old Saint John for a good fishing season.
Back to the sweets: today we’re baking alfajores AND making our own dulce de leche. And we should be eating them like they do in Argentina – with a cortado (espresso with a splash of hot milk). Cocinamos!
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg plus one yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-2 cups dulce de leche (recipe below)
Suggested toppings: confectioners sugar, pistachios, shaved coconut, sea salt … get cray!
First, blend the butter and sugar. Add the egg plus yolk and vanilla and beat over medium speed until incorporated. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cornstarch and baking powder. Combine the flour mixture with the butter mixture and continue mixing until it forms a consistent dough.
Remove the dough from the mixer and divide the dough into two balls. Wrap the balls in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Unwrap the dough and roll it out onto a floured surface. Roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness, then cut with a small round cutter (or a glass). Note: you can make dough thinner or thicker, depending on your preference. Repeat the rolling and cutting until you have used all the dough. Place the cookies on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet, and bake for 15 minutes, or until the edges start to brown.
Let the cookies cool and then put of generous schmear of dulce de leche on one cookie, and top with another cookie. Press together. Sprinkle on toppings and finish with confectioners sugar.
Dulce de leche
One can of condensed milk (size: how much dulce de leche do you want?)
Fill a large pot with water. Submerge can, bring to boil. Lower heat and cover. Boil for two hours. Drain water. LET COOL. Then open. DO NOT POKE HOLES IN THE CAN! Ok, maybe you can, because apparently some people do for fear of explosion, but I did not poke holes and there were no explosions.