Thursday, February 18, 2010

South American Alfajores

Ever been to South America?
Me either.
Ever want to go?
Me too! Awesome.

Heres a little something to get you excited about our potential upcoming trip to South America; delectable Dulce de Leche sprinkled with coconut and sandwiched in between two feathery light, crumbly butter biscuits. I present.... Alfajores. They are apparently eaten all through Central and South America and i'm pining to get me some real-deal ones!

My old boss, Orlanda, gave me my first try of these cookies while we were working (hiding out the back of the shop) together. Her husband is Brazilian, rides a motorcycle and bakes, pretty great combination for a husband. Anyway he made her these and she let me have a bite. They were amazing! I have never seen them again in shops or bakeries or anywhere so I decided to look up the recipe and make them myself, and i'm so glad I did.

Dulce de Leche is a Spanish form of candied milk. It takes a ridiculous amount of time to make but is very easy so you have no excuse. I don't want to hear any qualms about an intimidating name, Dulce de Leche is literally a can of sweetened condensed milk warmed in a pot of water for 3 hours. There's nothing intimidating about that now is there! We used to suck tubes of condensed milk dry while hiking at Timbertop in year nine at school and I can say with confidence that this is so much more delicious. I would have no problem eating this stuff by the spoonful straight out of the warm can. Make sure you save some for the biscuits.

It's my little sister Alice's going away party tonight. She's leaving us and going to live in Melbourne to study Medicine and will probably marry some gorgeous Melbournite man and never return to Sydney! On top of her being my little-sister-who-pretends-to-be-grown-up she is also my sous chef. She is an expert at folding egg whites whereas I am thoroughly hopeless at it. Her pasta sauce is perfection and her genius idea for espresso ice-cream with hazelnut praline is her best idea yet. I'm going to miss her more than the ocean is blue. And the ocean is pretty damn blue. So, Pooch, these biscuits are dedicated to you.

South American Alfajores:
(Adapted from the Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine)
100g cold unsalted butter, chopped
150g caster sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 cup plain flour
150g corn flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Dulce de Leche:
1 can sweetened condensed milk

(makes approx. 65 individual biscuits)

Poke three holes in the top of the condensed milk can (otherwise witness the amazing exploding can party trick). Place the can in a saucepan and fill the pan with water so that it reaches two thirds of the way up the side of the can. Simmer the can for 3 hours, topping up the water as it steams away. Allow the can to cool before opening and spoon out the contents into a mixing bowl. The bottom of the can will be quite thick and lumpy. Whisk the mixture while it is still warm until the lumps disappear. Place a piece of cling-wrap directly on the surface of the Dulce de Leche and place in the fridge to cool.

Meanwhile, Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (fan forced). Process butter and sugar in a food processor until pale and creamy. Add eggs and yolk and pulse to combine. Sift the flour, cornflour and baking powder together and add to the food processor. Pulse until just combined. Form the mixture into a dough, wrap in cling-wrap and refrigerate for half an hour.

Roll out chilled dough between two sheets of baking parchment to approx. 5mm thickness. Using a 3cm wide round cookie cutter, cut round of dough and place 5cm apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 12-25 minutes or until the biscuits are lightly browned around the edges. Transfer to wire cooling racks and allow to cool completely.

To assemble, sandwich two biscuits together with a spoonful of Dulce de Leche and roll the edges in coconut. Devour immediately.

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