Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sparkling Mariposa Alfajores (Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies)

This was my first time making dulce de leche and I must say, it’s pretty amazing that this confection comes out of such simple ingredients as milk, sugar, and a bit of baking soda. While the ingredients and technique are very simple in making this treat, it is time consuming. I suggest making it a couple of days in advance and then making the cookies and putting them together another day.

I chose to make the cookies butterfly or “mariposa” shaped, but you could certainly do any shape such as a flower, heart, or the standard circle.

For the cookies (recipe courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson)

Alfajores (Dulce de Leche Cookie Sandwiches) Recipe
Makes 20 round cookies and 30 butterfly cookies

1⅔ cups cornstarch
1¼ cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
⅔ cup sugar
10 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon cognac or brandy
½ tsp. lemon zest
4 egg yolks
1 cup chopped milk or dark chocolate, for dipping cookies

Heat oven to 350°. In a bowl, sift together cornstarch, flour, and baking powder; set aside. In a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat together sugar and butter until fluffy. Add cognac and zest; beat. Add yolks one at a time; beat. Add dry ingredients; mix. Transfer dough to a floured surface, knead briefly; divide into 3 pieces. Working with 1 dough piece at a time, roll dough to 1/4″ thickness. Using a cookie cutter of your choice, cut out cookies; transfer to parchment paper—lined baking sheets, spaced 1″ apart. Reroll scraps and repeat. Bake until golden (about 10 minutes for smaller cookies and 12-15 for larger shaped ones). Let cool.

For the Dulce de Leche (recipe courtesy of Alton Brown)
• 1 quart whole milk
• 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
• 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped OR 1-2 tsp vanilla bean paste
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine milk and sugar in a 3-4 qt sauce pan. Simmer over low-medium heat until sugar is fully dissolved. Switch to low heat and add the baking soda. Mixture will begin to foam. As the mixture slowly caramelizes, it will continue to foam throughout- scrape the foam off of the top of the mixture (DO NOT REINCORPORATE), being careful to not discard any of the liquid with the foam. Stir occasionally as mixture cooks. Continually cook mixture over low heat, following the same process of scraping/removing foam from top and stirring for about 2 hours. Remove mixture from heat once it’s reached a dark caramel color and thick consistency (should be reduced to about a cup- it will thicken slightly more once cooled). Before dulce de leche is cooled, pour through a sieve to ensure smoothness. Allow to cool before filling cookies. Mixture can be stored in fridge for about 2 weeks, however, for best results, use within one week of making (sometimes it can crystallize in the fridge).

To assemble the alfajores:

Put about a teaspoon of dulce de leche between two cookies and sandwich together. Once all of the cookies are assembled, place back onto a baking sheet and place in freezer for about 30 minutes (to ease the dipping process).

Melt 1 cup of semi-sweet or dark chocolate in double boiler. Dip the top and sides of each cookie and place on wax paper lined baking sheet to harden. Once cookies are completely dry (you can put them in the fridge after dipping to speed the process). Decorate as desired.

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