Christmas is the only time of year when I allow myself to unleash the baker in me. I'm a better cook than baker, but I do enjoy a good sweet every now and then.
Tradition in my family dictates that in the days leading up to Christmas, there must be an insane amount of sweets made - candy more than baking - from homemade marzipan fruits, to a sort of pecan fudge (but not really fudge, since there's no milk in it), to candied nuts to caramels. My family's Christmas dessert table was insane! What every little kid dreams of.
Fast-forward to my life now. I hate to say that I'm falling way short on the sweet-making. I have a busy daytime job that leaves me little energy for baking or even cooking at night, so I try to catch up on my traditions ON or AFTER Christmas Eve.
This year, since the 24th fell on a Sunday, I did all my baking during the day. I made my favourite cookies - all of which contain a decent amount of butter. Fighting for number one and two on my list are Mexican Polvorones (otherwise known as Mexican Wedding Cookies) and Argentinian Alfajores. I honestly can't decide which ones I like best, I suppose it depends on the day I'm eating them. But if you put them both in front of me at the same time I really struggle to decide!
I will make a blog post about Polvorones at a later date, but today, I want to show you how to make the outrageously delicious Alfajor.
Alfajores are made in many South American countries and in the Caribbean, as well as in Spain, though those differ greatly from the Latin ones. In Latin America, they are a sandwich cookie, with dulce the leche in the middle. Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Venezuela, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Brazil and Puerto Rico are amongst the Alfajor-making countries, though this recipe was given to me by a Salvadorean friend.
Recipes vary - some recipes have cornstarch, others cassava, some have lime or lemon zest, coconut, even chocolate, but all of them have dulce de leche in the middle. This recipe is a classic butter cookie, baked and then filled, then dusted liberally with icing sugar. Yes, they are a little time-consuming to make since you have to roll them out, but keep the dough cold and it will be pretty easy to do. I like to make small ones that you can eat in one bite, but if you want to finish faster, you can make them big!
I hope you make some soon, because I know you'll love them!
Salvadorean Butter Cookies with Dulce de Leche Filling
2 1/3 cups flour
1/3 cup icing sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup dulce de leche
Icing sugar for decoration
In mixer bowl, cream butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add flour and mix to incorporate. Turn out dough onto a piece of plastic. Wrap and refrigerate dough for 30-60 minutes.
Roll out dough on floured surface to 1/8" thickness, and cut into desired shapes. Prick all over with a fork and place on parchment-covered baking trays. Bake in 350°F oven for about 15-18 minutes, or until the edges turn golden. Cool on a rack. When cookies are cool, fill with dulce de leche and then sprinkle tops with icing sugar.
Makes about 40 small cookies.