This is a post that I have been waiting to share with you. Have you watched It's Complicated? If you have, I'm sure the scene which had inspired us to cook together has come to your mind. Meryl Streep's Country Style kitchen has such marvelous details that it's hard to believe it is actually a movie set. Exposed shelving hosting ceramics, fresh herbs by the sink flooded with sunlight, terracotta tiles and that heavenly marble island (that must be Carrera) for hurried breakfast. The kitchen space is open to what I would like to think was the informal dining room. It is definitely a kitchen I will be looking to for inspiration whenever we build our home.
My husband and I finally baked in the kitchen together. Our mutual love for food was one of the things we connected over. Planning to cook together was something we decided on along the way. Okay, back to the movie scene. Steve Martin and Meryl Streep decide to make chocolate croissants in her bakery late into the night. They make pastry, rolling dark chocolate slabs into it, laughing giddily and bake a massive batch of pastries. Watching them sit down and break into warm croissants and savour their puffy baked treats had me instantly wanting to bake a batch with my husband.
When the time actually came, leafing through my baking bible I realised making puff pastry from scratch needed time. So I was looking through my bookmarked recipes for something I haven't attempted before. It had to be Alfajores. Al-fa-ho-res are traditional biscuits native to Spain and some countries in Latin America and are composed of shortbread with Dulche de Leche sandwiched between two cookies and dusted with powdered sugar. Dulche de Leche is a jam made by heating sweetened milk. The water in the milk evaporates and thickens to a rich consistency and renders a golden caramel colour. I had picked up a bottle from the supermarket a while ago out of curiosity. It's gooey and is a treat smothered on warm toast. It is a heavy confection and I like to be light-handed with it because it can be a bit cloyingly sweet.
We had a lot of fun making these little beauties. I doubled the recipe and made the dough. He rolled it out to the required thickness and cut them to perfection. In hindsight, I was probably breathing down his neck while he rolled and cut the cookies. I was asked to watch from the sidelines and talk about anything other than the thickness of the cookies. I had him use a flower cookie cutter as well, although traditionally these biscuits are cut round. The best part was he washed the dishes while the biscuits baked. We let them cool and picked out the best looking biscuits and set them aside to be sandwiched later. The biscuits that did not make it past our quality-control checks were snacked on. The biscuits were light, buttery and the melt-in-the-mouth kind. These biscuits would be perfect for your cup of tea as they taste heavenly by themselves even before they were sandwiched.
The next morning I generously spooned Dulche de Leche, sandwiched the cookies and dusted them with icing sugar. These dainty cookies are truly a delight. The milk jam imparts the right note of sweetness to these cookies. Our cookies definitely looked smaller than the ones featured in the recipe I used. Having doubled the recipe, we had a lot of Alfajores cookies. The Alfajores disappeared really fast and were polished off mostly by my little nieces. Watching them pick apart the biscuits and lick the Dulche de Leche and giggle with sugar coated lips was a treat to watch.
I'm hoping to head back into the kitchen and bake those croissants with him soon. For now, I'll leave you with the recipe.
Recipe barely adapted from Technicolor Kitchen
- 1¼ cup cornstarch
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ cup or 114 g of butter
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- Dulche de Leche - as required
- Icing sugar to sprinkle
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF; line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
- Sift cornstarch, flour and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.
- In large mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time and mix until incorporated.
- In slow speed, add the sifted ingredients and mix until the dough comes together – don’t overmix.
- Roll out dough between two pieces of baking paper to ¼ inch (0.60cm) thickness.
- Using a 2-in (5cm) round cutter, cut cookies and place on prepared sheets –
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or until barely brown on the bottom - tops will be pale.
- Set on cooling rack to cool.
- Sandwich the cookies with the dulce de leche and dust with icing sugar before serving.
- If you are working in a warm place, refrigerate the dough for a couple of minutes before rolling it.
- Don’t re-roll the dough more than twice.
Have a good food day!