Saturday, January 19, 2013

Alfajores (Caramel Shortbread Sandwich Cookies)

Our Book Group meets the first Tuesday of every month. Yes, I know this past Tuesday was the second Tuesday, but we’re a true bunch of renegades, and we don’t really spend much time talking about books anymore anyway. So, on the second Tuesday of the month, our first-Tuesday-of-the- month Book Group that talks more about food than books, met. (Did you get all that?)

The book we were “discussing” was Tom Wolfe’s “Back to Blood.” But that’s beside the point. (So, if you’re expecting a book review, you’ll have to go elsewhere.) The consensus was, “the book was long,” “the book was classic Tom Wolfe,” “we all saw Bonfire of the Vanities.” Oh, and this last comment was most prevalent: “Let’s eat.”

Before you begin making some cheap generalizations about the IQ and attention span of the group members, I have to say that many of them are MIT grads, MDs, Ph.Ds, and biotech execs, so the brains are definitely’s just that the stomachs usually win out over the brains.

We have each unintentionally been pigeonholed into our designated food categories, and I always have the dessert one. I try to never bring an overly fussy or heavily frosted dessert--we do sometimes have books lying around, you know, and I would hate for them to get dirty. 

My repertoire has run the gamut of cookie bark, biscotti, quick breads, and scones, and this time I went the cookie route. One of the members of the group lives with a man who comes from Spain. She once mentioned how much they loved “Alfajores,” a traditional treat popular in Latin America and some regions of Spain. It’s basically a shortbread cookie sandwich filled with dulce de leche, a thick, creamy caramel. I promised to make them some and there was no time like the present.

So here it is, this month’s contribution to the Book Group. I wish my contribution to the book discussion could have been as good. (Although I doubt it would have been as appreciated.)

Alfajores (Caramel-Shortbread Sandwich Cookies)
(makes about 25 sandwiches)
Cookie Dough:
6 oz. unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 whole egg
3/4c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. brandy
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1tsp. grated lemon peel 
2c. all purpose flour
1/4c. cornstarch

Dulce de Leche:
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. kosher salt

Make dough:
Sift cornstarch and flour together and set side. Using an electric mixer, cream butter, lemon peel and sugar together until fluffy. Slowly add the egg, brandy and vanilla extract and mix until combined. On medium speed, add flour mixture and mix again, until dough forms into a ball. 

Remove dough from mixer bowl, divide in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for 2 hours.

Meanwhile make Dulce de Leche:
Empty contents of the can into an oven-proof dish; sprinkle with the salt and tightly cover with foil.

Place the covered dish in a larger roasting pan  or casserole dish and fill it up with water until it reaches three quarters of the way up the covered dish. (You're creating a water bath.) Bake at 425 degrees for 60-90 minutes, checking every 30 minutes on the water level and adding more as needed.

Dulce de leche is ready when it takes on a brown and caramel-like appearance. Remove from the oven and whisk to smoothness. Leave at room temperature if using right away. If not, store in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Using a lightly floured 2-inch round or scalloped cookie cutter, cut out cookies. (You will have approximately 50.) If you have time, place on the baking sheets and place in the fridge for about 15 minutes. (This will firm the cookies so they maintain their shape when baked.) Bake for about 12 minutes, or until cookies are brown around the edges. Cool on a wire rack. Shortbread cookies with keep in an airtight container for about a week.
Alfajores: Take two shortbread cookies and sandwich them together with a heaping teaspoon of Dulce de Leche. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with confectioners sugar or dip them in chocolate. Can be covered and stored for a few days in the refrigerator, but the cookies will soften a bit.
Makes about 25 cookie sandwiches.


  1. My book club is totally the same way! We end up discussing the book for maybe 5 or 10 minutes, but most of us are really just there to eat =) These alfajores look great!

    1. Funny how that happens, Peggy, isn't it? I look at it as being a way to get me to read, regardless of whether or not we discuss the book at length.

  2. These look good and different. Many people, I am not really one, go absolutely crazy for shortbread cookies. I left my book club when rules were made that the first 45 minutes of the meeting was spent only on the book selection.

  3. No rules, in this group. That's why I stay. Thanks for commenting, Haralee!

  4. I love shortbread! The problem is, no one else in my house does, so I end up eating them all. Thanks for a great recipe Mindy...looks awesome.

  5. My mouth is watering. Love your book club. I was in one for 5 minutes. Then discovered I have to read the book that someone else chose. That did it, gone. Now if it had been a cookbook club. I could get with that. Instead I will save this recipe. How will I do that? I love Docle de leche in any form, shoes, cookies or the floor.

  6. I want to be a member of any book group that you are part of! If this is what happens the first Tuesday of every month, it is worth a trip to Boston. Love the--stomachs win over the brains.

  7. I'm a cookie lover and these look divine.

  8. Seriously, Mindy - these cookies look AH-Maz-ing! I'm going to give them a try. Maybe for Superbowl Sunday :)

    1. I'd make them for you, if I could...well, maybe I can!

  9. Bah! My book group meets the first Tues. of the month, too.
    I just added that recipe to Pepperplate. Can't wait to try it.

  10. Hey, I think you're on to something here...and Sandra definitely is! "Cook" Book Club is a great idea. Everyone creates (AND BRINGS) a different recipe!

    Those shortbread cookies look amazing! Can't wait to try them!

  11. Oh my my ... these looks scrumptious. I'm a huge fan of shortbread cookies. Can't wait to try them.

    1. You keep trying all my recipes, Helene, and I'll keep sending you more!

  12. These look SO delicious. Please send me an invitation to your Book Club! PS I am thinking about leaving my Book Club. The first hour has been spending time listening to everyone bragging about their kids at college (we all met when our kids were at the same nursery school)and all the incredible internships/grades/trips they are making. I don't mind it for a few minutes, but an hour is a bit much, and I hate bragging. I'd rather read the books by myself, and make and eat the shortbread cooking on my own!

    1. Sounds like a plan, Cathy. We're in Cambridge, so if you're ever in the neighborhood...

  13. My sister's book group is exactly the same as yours. And those cookies look delicious. I'll have to pass the recipe on to my husband!