Show: A Baker’s Dozen
From A Baker’s Tour: Nick Malgieri’s Favorite Baking Recipes from Around the World, Harper Collins, 2005
Crisp Sandwich Cookies filled with Milk Carmel from Argentina: This recipe comes from Nick Malgieri’s Argentine connection, Ana Rambaldi. It makes crunchy cookies sandwiched with a filling of dulce de leche – carmalized sweetened condensed milk. The filling is easy to prepare, but canned dulce de leche can sometimes be found in Hispanic grocery stores. About fifteen 2-to-3 inch sandwich cookies.
1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1 2/3 cups cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon cognac or brandy
4 large egg yolks
One 14-ounce can sweentened condensed milk
One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
Water or milk as needed
1 Cup sweetened shredded coconut, ground medium fine in the food processor
2 cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans lined with parchment or foil
Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
For the dough, stir the flour, cornstarch, and baking power together in a small bowl and set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until soft and light, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the lemon zest and cognac.
Add the egg yokes one at a time, beating smooth after each addition.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the flour mixture with a large rubber spatula.
Scrape the dough from the bowl to a lightly floured work surface and fold it over on itself 2 or 3 times to make it smooth.
Use a knife or bench scraper to divide the dough into 3 pieces.
Place 1 piece of the dough on a lightly floured work surface and lightly flour the dough. Roll the dough about ¼ inch thick, moving it often to prevent sticking.
Cut out the cookies with a 2 ½ inch diameter plain cutter. Place the cookies on the prepared pans 1 inch apart in all directions.
Gently knead to incorporate the scraps into the next piece of dough and repeat rolling and cutting. Repeat incorporating scraps and rolling and cutting the last piece of dough. Roll the remaining scraps once more, but discard the scraps after rolling twice. The cookies will be touch if the dough is rolled too much.
Bake the cookies until they are evenly golden, about 15 minutes. Change the position of the pans from the upper and lower rack and vice versa, also turning them back to front, at least once during backing. If your oven gives strong bottom heat, stack 2 pans together for baking on the lower rack to provide extra insulation and avoid burning the cookies.
Slide the papers from the pans to racks to cool the cookies.
To make the dulce de leche filling, set a rack in the middle level of the oven and keep it at 350 degrees.
Heat the sweetened condensed milk and the evaporated milk in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a boil. Pour the hot milk into a 9 x 13 inch glass or enameled pan and bake it, stirring often, until it is thick and caramel-colored, about 20-30 minutes. Scrape the dulce de leche into a glass or stainless steel bowl. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of water or milk to bring the filling to a spreading consistency. Press plastic wrap against the surface and chill it until you are ready to assemble the cookies.
To assemble the alfajores, turn half the cookies upside down so that the flat bottom sides are upward. Spoon or pipe about 1 teaspoon of the dulce de leche onto each. Place the other cookies on the filling, flat side down, gently pressing to adhere.
To finish the alfajores, spread some of the dulce de leche on the outside of each cookie, then roll the cookies in the coconut.
Storage: Keep the alfajores in a tin or plastic container with a tight fitting cover between sheets of wax paper.