I woke up one day earlier this week, and rather than tackle the giant to-do list I'd prepared the night before, I began looking for ways to procrastinate. I'm something of an expert in that area :) It seems the longer my to-do list, the more reasons I can find to put things off another couple of hours. I started cleaning out my pantry (motivated by a search for dry milk powder a few days earlier that had taken WAY too long), and that's when I found the lone can of dulce de leche.
I abandoned the organization effort, and went directly to my bookcase, scanning the indexes of my favorite baking books for ways to incorporate the dulce de leche into something sweet. Not surprisingly, I found a few good options in my copy of Martha Stewart's Cookies. Do you guys have this book? It has a huge assortment of recipes, and I've made a ton of them with overwhelmingly positive results. Every year when the holidays roll around, it's one of the first places I look for new recipe ideas. These chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies I made several years ago remain one of my all-time favorite holiday treats!
Anyway, I digress. I headed to the kitchen with my can of dulce de leche, and armed with this recipe for alfajores. Alfajores are sandwich cookies - sweet dulce de leche acts as the glue to hold together buttery, shortbread-like cookies. I've only recently become familiar with them, but it's my understanding that they're a very popular treat in South America. I'm not generally a fan of roll-out cookies because, frankly, they're more work than drop cookies, but these were actually really easy. The dough rolls out beautifully - mine wasn't sticky, nor did it warm up enough to give me any trouble. I used a fluted cookie cutter to make the cookies a little more special, but you could really make these in any shape you want. As I mentioned, I used store-bought dulce de leche, but if you can't find it (or just want to make your own), there are methods here and here.
I should warn you that these cookies are only the slightest bit sweet - definitely not sweet enough to count as dessert if eaten alone (at least in my opinion). For that reason, they actually pair nicely with the dulce de leche which is the epitome of sweet and rich. The sanding sugar gives the sandwiches just a little bit of sparkle, making them the perfect holiday treat!
Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies (Alfajores)
from Martha Stewart's Cookies
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup water
dulce de leche
Sift the flour and confectioners' sugar onto a sheet of wax paper. Transfer to the bowl of your food processor along with the butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 20 seconds. With the machine running, add the water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, and continue processing just until the dough comes together, about 20 seconds. Transfer the dough to a work surface and divide in half. Shape each half into a thin disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Unwrap one disk of dough and place it on a floured work surface. Roll the dough to a thickness of 1/4 to 1/8-inch. Use a 1 3/4-inch cookie cutter to cut as many rounds as you can from the dough then transfer them to the prepared baking sheet (they won't spread, you can put them fairly close together). Set aside the scraps. Repeat with the second disk of dough. Combine the scraps from both disks to reroll and cut additional cookies. Sprinkle half of the cookies with sanding sugar. Bake for 15 minutes, or until pale golden brown (rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time). Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool for a few minutes before removing them to the racks to cool completely.
Match the cookies in pairs by size, combining one sugared cookie and one unsugared. Place about 1 teaspoon of dulce de leche on the unsugared cookie, then put the sugared cookie on top, pressing gently to sandwich and squeeze the filling to the edges. Repeat to finish all of the sandwiches. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Makes about 3 dozen sandwich cookies