Just when you think you’ve made every kind of cookie known to mankind… you see a sign at your favorite restaurant with a Spanish word that you can’t pronounce and a delicious looking sandwich cookie. You order a few of them to take home and, of course, even though you said the name over and over again in your head the whole way home, you forget the name of these tasty treats by the time you reach the door. Just write it down on your phone, you say? That would be a logical thought, but unfortunately, technology is completely lost on me. A few hours on Google and two headaches later – alfajores. Yes, that sounds right. Roughly translated, alfajores means “exquisite.” And how exquisite they are. These cookies are traditionally found in parts of Spain and Latin America. Cool, another reason to plan a trip to Barcelona, I say. The alfajor tastes so familiar, but it is unlike any cookie that you have ever eaten before.
These cookies begin with a simple, buttery shortbread cookie recipe. Tiny rounds of this dough surround sweet, sticky, and thick homemade dulce de leche. This is the first time that I have tried making my own dulce de leche. Usually, store-bought will do, but I figured I would put in some extra effort for these special cookies. As it turns out, this dulce de leche does not require much (really, any) effort at all. I learned this new technique while watching Brunch at Bobby’s last weekend. All you do is put it in a pan, put it in the oven, and put it in your mouth. I stirred in some toasted, chopped pecans for extra crunch.
- 1¼ cups cake flour
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- ¼ cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
- Place the flour, powdered sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and vanilla extract and process for about 30 seconds, until the dough comes together and rides around the sides of the bowl.
- Form the dough into a 7-inch round log and wrap in a piece of waxed paper. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, until firm. After 2 hours, remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll on a flat surface to form a smooth, circular log. Return to the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the waxed paper from the dough and cut the dough into very thin slices, about ¼-inch thick. Arrange the cookies on the baking sheets. Bake for about 15 minutes, just until golden brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely.
- Increase the oven temperature to 425°F. Pour the condensed milk into a small, shallow baking dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place the baking dish in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring once while cooking, until the milk turns a light golden color. Remove the baking dish from the water and transfer the dulce de leche to a small bowl. Let cool completely, then stir in the pecans.
- To assemble the cookies, spread a generous amount of dulce de leche on the flat sides of half the shortbread cookies. Place the remaining cookies on top and press gently to secure.