Guess what we’re making?
[note–the pot above is utilized only as the bottom of the jerry-rigged double boiler and for making dulce de leche where its contents do not interact with the food–I promise I’m not poisoning people with teflon].
It’s been a while since I had fun with dulce de leche. And, I was thinking about my friend Melissa who moved to Argentina. Another friend of mine was just there and it got me wondering why haven’t I been? Why not just hop on a plane? There are multiple daily flights out of LAX on LANS. I could be there before sundown tomorrow.
And then reality set in. There is that thing I spend most of my time doing called work. And there is that dishwasher that needs to be replaced. And those Kitchen Gods who are insistent on being fed. So, I settled on missing Melissa and making alfajores.
As if the dulce de leche filling wasn’t enough to motivate me to give these a whirl, I’ve long been intriugued with the idea of swapping out traditional flour with cornstarch. I’ve done some experimenting with shortbread recipes, to mixed results. So, this was an excuse to experiment.
Unlike my shortbread attempts, this was a success. Just barely sweet, the cookies were tender and crisp. I managed to coax exactly two dozen little round cookies out of the dough.
Alfajores are often rolled in ground coconut as a finishing touch. As coincidence would have it, the other recipe I made the day I made these also included coconut as a main ingredient. Not wanting to over coconut the recipients of my treats, I left off the coconut here.
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon pisco or brandy
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup dulce de leche at room temperature. For recipes goes here and here
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
- Place the cornstarch, measured flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk briefly to combine; set aside.
- Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl once with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks, pisco or brandy, and vanilla and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, gradually add the reserved flour mixture and mix until just incorporated with no visible white pockets, about 30 seconds.
- Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape it into a smooth disk, and wrap it tightly. Place in the refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a lightly floured work surface or, between two sheets of parckment. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Roll to 1/4-inch thickness (the dough will crack but can be easily patched back together). Stamp out 24 rounds using a plain or fluted 2-inch round cutter, rerolling the dough as necessary until all of it is gone.
- Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, 12 per sheet and at least 1/2 inch apart. Bake 1 sheet at a time until the cookies are firm and pale golden on the bottom, about 12 to 14 minutes. (The cookies will remain pale on top.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Flip half of the cookies upside down and gently spread about 2 teaspoons of the dulce de leche on each. Place a second cookie on top and gently press to create a sandwich. Dust generously with powdered sugar before serving.
I went straight for it with our new range. No foreplay, didn’t buy it dinner first. No banter about whether it was into the feel of the ocean, or the taste of champagne.
Not only did I pick an incredibly fickle recipe for the oven’s maiden voyage, I also added an additional layer of difficulty by trying a new twist I had no idea would work.
Replace some of the almond meal with ground freeze-dried pineapple in my favorite French macaron recipe? Why not?
Lucky for me, the oven did great. All of the shells formed feet and not a single one cracked.
I think this is the start of a beautiful relationship.
Even if the oven hadn’t performed up to snuff, I’m pretty sure I could have filled hockey pucks with this magical cream cheese, coconut and ground pineapple filling to similar success.
Pineapple and Coconut Macarons
Shells adapted slightly from Cannelle et Vanille, filling of my own creation
For the shells
- 130 grams egg whites
- 3 grams egg white powder
- 80 grams sugar
- 180 grams almond flour
- 240 grams powdered sugar
- 2 grams salt
- 20 grams freeze-dried pineapple chunks, finely ground
- 2 drops yellow food coloring if desired
- Make sure that the egg whites have been separated from the egg yolks at least the night before. If the weather is cool and you are brave, leave them out, covered in plactic wrap, overnight.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, salt and ground pineapple. Process for 30-60 seconds until thoroughly combined. Sift into a large bowl. Discard bits that don’t go through sieve.
- Whip the egg whites with the egg white powder until very fluffy, almost fully whipped. Start adding the sugar slowly while whipping. Add the food coloring and continue whipping to stiff peaks.
- Add the dry ingredients to the meringue and fold with a spatula until a shiny mass forms. To test, pipe a small amount on your sheetpan. If it keeps a little bit of a top when piped, then you have to mix it a bit further, if it spreads really fast, you have gone too far and your macarons will turn out flat.
- When you have the right consistency, place the mass in a pastry bag with a number 5 tip (to be honest, I just snip the tip of the bag to about a 1/8-1/4 inch and pipe without the tip) and pipe small rounds onto sheetpans lined with parchment or silpat. Let them dry at room temperature for at least 45 minutes to an hour. The tops should be dry when you touch them.
- Preheat oven to 300F degrees. Bake for 8 minutes and rotate sheetpan and bake for another 5 minutes.
- Let the macarons cool on the sheet pan.
For the filling
- 8 ounces cream cheese (I like to use a lower fat version to keep the filling from being too heavy)
- 2 C confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 C ground coconut flakes
- 3 TBS ground freeze-dried pineapple (don’t worry about this adding a strange texture, the pineapple will rehydrate nicely)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- Using a hand-mixer (I find the capacity of my standing mixer is too large), whip cream cheese.
- Slowly add-in confectioner’s sugar until fully combined into the cream cheese.
- Add-in coconut and pineapple, mixing to combine. Add-in vanilla.
- Mix filling on high for a couple of minute to incorporate a little air into the confection.
- Fill macarons as desired.
TD is a big fan of Kind bars. I’m not a big fan of how much they cost. The ingredients are so simple I reckoned someone had to have figured out how to “hack” them.
I was right. The Yummy Life did a whole expose on these nutty little treats.
Which I then adapted for my own purposes.
They took about 20 minutes to make from start to finish. And at about a quarter of the price of the original, I’ve added these to my regular baking rotation.
Coconut Almond Kind-er Bars
adapted from The Yummy Life
- 2 C whole roasted* unsalted almonds
- 2 C unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
- 1 C puffed millet, rice (or other puffed whole grain; or crispy brown rice cereal)
- 1 TBS flaxseed meal (I found mine at our local natural foods store, Bob’s Red Mill brand)
- 1/2 C honey*
- 1/3 C brown rice syrup (may substitute light corn syrup..I did…it worked fine)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Grease large bowl and 9X13 pan
- Mix nuts and flaxseed together in the bowl.
- Combine honey and syrup in a small saucepan with a candy thermometer.
- On medium heat, mix syrup constantly until it reaches about 260 degrees.
- Remove from heat and carefully stir-in vanilla and salt.
- Add syrup mixture to nuts and quickly mix ingredients.
- Dump into the 9X13 pan and spread mixture evenly using fingers.
- Using the bottom of a cup or glass, press the mixture into the pan so that it is level.
- Allow to cool completely before cutting.
- I wrapped each individually in plastic wrap.
A long, long time ago a friend introduced TD and me to the caipirinha. Exotic, refreshing and addicting, TD and I were easy fans. While this delightful concoction of cachaca (think rum), muddled sugar and lime may be the national cocktail of Brazil, at the time, caipirinhas had yet to make it to the U.S. with any popularity.
At least that was our excuse for never quite remembering its name.
Instead, we opted for something more familiar that sounded similar: chupacabra. For those readers not from the southwest or any area bordering Mexico, a chupacabra is a scrubby but feared mythical creature. I grew up understanding it as a vampiric coyote type critter but the literal translation says it’s more like a goat. Anyhow, their purported presence are particularly parasitic on cattle ranches where they allegedly take their sustenance by draining the bovine of their blood. There was even an X-Files about them. So, they must be legit–right?
That’s how the caipirinha became the chupacabra in our household. While we were bastardizing the name of the national treasure, we also lost the true cocktail in translation and began adding mint. Yes, I realize, we basically ended up with a mojito made with cachaca. For a few years, this was our libabtion of choice to serve at dinner parties and barbeques. We even served them at the Easter dinner in right after we got engaged. But, that’s another story.
Thinking about chupacabras make me happy (the drink, not the vampire goats…though those yelling goat videos are hysterical). Thinking about cake makes me happy. You know where this is going.
I took my favorite Ina Garten yogurt loaf. Swapped out the lemon for lime. Then added in a minty simple syrup and a cachaca glaze. The tastes were subtle but delightful; a new twist on an old favorite.
- Small bunch of fresh mint, washed
- 1 C granulated sugar
- 1 1/3 C water
- In a small saucepan, mix together water and sugar until sugar dissolves.
- Add-in mint and bring mixture to boil. As soon as it begins boiling, remove from heat and allow to steep for at least 30 minutes.
- Strain and store in an air-tight container in the fridge.
- 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
- 2 tsps baking powder
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 C plain whole-milk yogurt (sometimes I use Greek, sometimes European)
- 1 C sugar
- 3 extra-large eggs
- 2 TBS lime zest
- juice from the 2 limes you zested
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 C vegetable oil
- 1/2 C mint simple syrup
For the glaze:
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 TBS cachaca or white rum
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease, flour and line pan with parchment.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lime zest, lime juice and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
- When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pierce cake all over with a bamboo skewer than pour the mint syrup over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.
- For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and your choice of spirit to desired consistency and pour over the cake.