Daily Archives: December 18, 2008

12 Days of Christmas Cookies, Day 12

Congratulations intrepid blog readers…you have made it to the end of the cookie-a-thon. 

#12 Alfajores

I’m always on the lookout for unusual cookies.  When I was researching my list last year, this was one I came across that was more different than any other cookie I had seen before.  And it should be–it’s Argentinian.  The recipe is from Nick Malgieri’s A Baker’s Tour, which I picked up at Ross one day for $4 (that was a good day).  The cookie itself is odd in that it contains a high proportion of cornstarch which yields a rather tender cookie.  It is flavored with a good bit of lemon zest and cognac of all things.  This in and of itself would be a good cookie, but it gets more interesting.  The cookies, which are rolled and cut are then sandwiched and coated on the outside with dulce de leche.  The sides are then dipped in coconut.  The combination of flavors was so different I thought that they had to be tried.  These were the dark horse of last year’s cookie fest.  First, I must express my love for dulce de leche.

In college, I had a friend whose Dad did a lot of business in Brazil, and he would bring back treats for her from time to time.  The one I always managed to convince her to let me have was arequipe, which is the Brazilian form of dulce de leche.  Many graham crackers were eaten in Brittany’s dorm room with this amazing stuff slathered on.  Thankfully, I found out you didn’t have to go to Brazil to get some of it.  It seems every Latin culture has some version of this delightful milk caramel.  It comes by different names–arequipe, cajeta, dulce de leche–but the idea is the same no matter what you call it.  You simmer sweetened milk to which a tiny bit of baking soda has been added and maybe some flavoring like a cinnamon stick down until it is brown and thick…you can use sweetened condensed milk to save some time, but I find it tastes like the can often.  Last year, I made it from the can per Nick’s instructions (which very much unlike him were rather fussy–involving baking the stuff in a water bath and stirring it at regular intervals and replenishing the water) with the sweetened condensed milk and while the end result was passable, I wanted to try the homemade stuff this year.

So about a week before we assembled the cookies, I made the cajeta.  Cajeta is made with goat’s milk which brings a little bit of tang that tempers the sweetness.  Yes, you have to simmer it for about an hour and a half, but really you don’t have to pay attention to it at all.  I think I overcooked it this time in my effort to get a deep caramel color…it spread kind of weird on the cookies.  No difference, though because they are still wonderfully delicious.

alfajores

One last invitation from me: add your pictures of your Christmas cookies here.  It’s fun seeing what people make.

Nathan and I are in San Francisco for a couple of days.  He has a science conference here, and I tagged along to eat and shop (which sounds worse on both counts than it actually is).  I imagine I shall write about where we eat and any jiffy fabric places I may come across in the next day or so.  I’m so excited to eat dim sum on Saturday!