March 15, 2007

Argentina Can't Quite Be Replicated in My Kitchen

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


A while back I mentioned in a post that if someone suggesting a recipe for me to make, I’d probably do it. The only person to put something out there was Marce of Pip in the City. She blogs from Argentina and suggested that I make alfajores and dulce de leche, both Argentinean specialties. Marce had recently made these on her blog so I went to find out what they were. What I learned was that alfajores are sweets made by joining two cookie-like layers with a sweet filling such as dulce de leche. Sounds good to me. The only sticking point, (pun intended, I’m sooo funny) was the dulce de leche. I had never made it before because I thought the experience would be something like making caramel, ie- a disaster. But I never refuse a challenge, so I was going to give it a try anyways. To begin with I had to boil whole milk, reduce the heat and skim off the skin, and then repeat this process three more times. You know what they say, a watched pot never boils, so I busied myself about the kitchen. I was in the process of washing grapes when one of them jumped out of my hand and rolled away. I stopped what I was doing, stood still and scanned the kitchen floor for the missing grape. I knew if I didn’t find him immediately, I would end up squishing him at a most inopportune time, (um, I guess no matter when I stepped on him it would be inopportune).


Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


Where on earth did it go? I got down on my hands and knees to search for the escapee and found him hiding under the stove. Not only was he under the stove, but he’d gotten himself far enough back that I couldn’t reach him without some help. A wooden spoon was perfect for the job. As I lay flat out on the kitchen floor, trying to scoot a grape out from under the stove with my spoon, I suddenly heard an unfortunately familiar sound: The sound of milk bubbling up over the top of the pot and scorching on the stovetop. This sound is quickly followed by the smell of scorched milk. Blech. With a flick of my wrist I hit the grape with the back end of the spoon, jumped to my feet and tried to salvage my bubbling cauldron of death. Er, dulce de leche. And where did that grape go again? As I mopped the milk off the stove I quickly discovered the answer to that question. Squish. Under my foot. Well isn’t that just fantastic? One more thing to clean up. With that mess out of the way I continued with the dulce de leche recipe. It was supposed to stay on the stove for a total of 3 ½ hours, after 2 ½ hours the sauce was really dark, quite flavourful and rapidly disappearing. I felt that if I left it any longer there would be nothing left. So I poured it into a jar and began to make the cookies.


Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


I wasn’t too sure about them either after reading the recipe, it had more cornstarch in it than any other recipe I’ve ever made. They also sounded suspiciously like a shortbread cookie and I’m not a huge fan of shortbread cookies. However, as I read further into the recipe, one of the ingredients piqued my interest: Armagnac. Fantastic, another way to use my new favourite alcohol! These cookies were starting to look up! And they were a whole lot easier to make than the dulce de leche, no boiling milk and no squished grapes involved.


Once the cookies were cool, I went to the fridge to retrieve the dulce de leche. I open the jar only to find that it had not thickened at all and was very much a syrup. I then returned to Marce’s blog where she informed me that if I was making alfajores it was better to use store bought dulce de leche because the homemade stuff would be too thin. Hmph. My homemade version was delicious, but thin. Perfect over ice cream, but thin. And so, despite the fact that Marce herself had told me that the dulce de leche would be thin, I was convinced that it would thicken up if I just gave it some time. I put it in the fridge and left it there overnight. Come morning it was still a syrup. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I poured the contents of the jar back into a sauce pan and set it over low heat for FIVE hours. Take that dulce de leche! I then scraped the measly contents back into the jar. This time around it only filled the jar half way, where did it all go? After all of my efforts, I have a ridiculous number of cookies and only enough dulce de leche to sandwich a few of them. Once again, although the dulce de leche thickened up a little bit, I didn’t let it cool completely so it still wasn’t as thick as I would have liked. At this point my patience had completely run out so I spooned the dulce de leche over my cookies and tried to ignore the fact that it immediately dribbled out the side.


Image Hosted by ImageShack.us


If I had of listened to Marce, I wouldn’t have this problem. But I’m stubborn and I didn’t listen to Marce. I’m glad I made the alfajores though, I love trying new things. I don’t think I’ll be making dulce de leche again anytime soon, but it was worth a shot. Thanks for the recipes Marce! If anyone else is feeling adventurous you can see the recipe for alfajores here, and dulce de leche here.

** Edited to add: The alfajores really are delicious! The ones I ate with my dulce de leche were amazing. I just wasn't able to produce enough of it!


Technorati Tags:

+ +

29 comments:

Danielle said...

That top photo is stunning, and the cookies sound good, too. I've only ever made dulce de leche from canned sweetened condensed milk, though.

rob said...

Brilynn, dulce de leche is one of my favourite things in the wide world of food. I think these cookies look fantastic, though I'm sorry to hear your dulce de leche making didn't go a little smoother. Are you still looking for people to assign you recipes?

linda said...

Like danielle, my dulche de leche experience is limited to sweetened condensed milk. But it is gooooood. Basically, you cover a can of sweetened condensed milk with water (in a pot of course), bring to a boil and simmer for 3 hours. Allow to coll, open and enjoy!

Susan said...

When I opened your page and saw your photo, I said, "wow." Let me repeat it for you now: "wow."

Marce said...

oh, I´m so sad it didn´t turn out well :( but now I understand why it´s so dark in those pictures, that dulce de leche cooked for 7 and a half hours! hahaha
Yeah, for some reason, the homemade variety of dulce de leche is a bit syrupish (I think they add glucose for thickness in the industrial variety), but it still tastes great. You should buy it when you get the chance so you get the whole flavor with none of the mess.
By the way, the cookies do have tons of cornstarch because that´s what they are all about, Maizena is a brand name for cornstarch. I do love their taste though because the lemon zest gives them a very nice flavor and they are all crumbly. For the leftover cookies, choose a very good jam, or some nutella, or buy some dulce de leche if you don´t hate it by now lol
Anyways, sorry you didn´t get to read my comment about not using the homemade variety for the alfajores. I promise to make it up to you if I ever travel to Canada, I´ll come armed with a big pot of dulce de leche just for you :)

Lydia said...

I like Marce's idea of using Nutella for the rest of the cookies -- no mess! It is such fun to try other people's recipes, though, even when the result isn't what you'd hoped for. Ah, well.....

Ellie said...

Sounds like you had quite an adventure while making the cookies and dulce de leche! Glad to see it all turned out though - even if the caramel is all oozy (and in my eyes, delicious!)

veron said...

I don't think I've had dulce de leche, now you got me curious. I like the part of the runaway grape. It's funny how something so little can distract you and cause near disasters. :)

Freya and Paul said...

They look cute in a blood bath kind of way (with the dripping and all) but well done for trying to make the dulce from scratch. I'd recommend the Evaporated Milk method, much cleaner, simpler and it tastes really good!

Quellia said...

Hehe I hope the taste was worth it!
I'll try to come up with something funky for you to make, though right now I'd be happy if someone would make (and deliver) a black forest cake for tomorrow.
Those cookies look huge!

Madam Chow said...

I have family in Argentina, and my family has always made it using sweetened condensed milk. It works really well - we use the process that Linda describes.

valentinA said...

I love your alfajores! they look similar to Napolitaines here, 2 cookies 'jammed' together with jam instead of dulce leche:)

here's the Napolitaines I made last year:
http://valentinacrimbonutter.blogspot.com/2006/12/christmas-around-corner-bouches-de.html

puu said...

allow me to add my support for the boiled can of sweetened condensed milk method--i've tasted the results and i swear, it really works!

gilly said...

Hi Bri - sorry to hear that the dulce de leche didn't go as quite as planned - I've never attempted it before, so I honestly have no idea of how simple/complicated it is supposed to be. Regardless, these treats look awesome!

Elle said...

Fantastic writing! I'll never look at a grape in the same way again.

FIVE more hours! It's amazing that any liquid was left at all. Wonder if Dorie has a recipe for dulce de leche?

Margaret said...

I feel quite worn out now after reading about your dulce de leche. You must be very patient and determined. I think I would have been tempted to run to the nearest
supermarket and buy a jar!!!
They do look fabulous though.

Kristen said...

If your dulce de leche would have thickened you wouldn't have had that amazing photo on top. Beautiful!

Nico said...

I can't believe you made dulce de leche from scratch! I can't remember anyone before making this the old school way.

The cans of condensed milk work well, but I once had a friend who forgot about them, and after 5 hours on the stove, they exploded and covered her kitchen in brown goo.

Lis said...

Oh man.. even thin dulce de leche smooshed in between those crumbly cookies looks amazing!

I don't think I've ever seen you make tiramisu.. and I'd love to see your spin on it!! How's about it? :D (You can't deny me.. let us not forget the last challenge I gave you and you failed miserably - oh my growling non-canadian-paper-chef-dinner tummy) :P

Ivonne said...

Mmmmmm ... alfajores! When my uncle went to Argentina, he brought back alfajores with him for all of us to try. When I make them, I roll them in coconut as the final touch.

Your photos are fantastic, Brilynn!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Wow...the cookies look fantastic. Some things just have to be follow the rules to work...I have a very hard time following rules.
That's just the nature of grapes!!

Mary said...

I adore alfajores but I haven't made them in over 10 years. It's just easier for me to buy them at the Peruvian restaurant in my 'hood. And that's some true dedication on your part - a total of 8 hours for the dulce de leche! Wow.

aria said...

that picture is so cool, it looks like the cookie has lots of tiny little legs and going to scamper off any second. it needs some googly eyes :) oh and YUM!!

Anna said...

There's a restaurant in Toronto called "Jumbo Emapandas" that sometimes sells similar cookies. I have no idea if the name of your blog has anything to do with that restaurant, but it always reminds me of it. Your cookies look amazing.

The Gourmand said...

Bri,
Making Alfajores & Dulce De Leche is what i grew up doing. I have the recipes for both on my blog Eat Me!. The recipe for alfajores is here and for Dulce De Leche is here. Please don't succumb to the canned condensed milk version. Making it from fresh milk and vanilla bean yields a far superior result.
Good Luck!

Pilar said...

Qué recuerdos me traen tus alfajores. Me los hacía la madre de una amiga argentina en New York.
Estupenda receta y estupendas fotografías.

Un beso desde España

Brilynn said...

Rob- I'm always up for a challenge, and given the amazing things I see on your blog, I'm curious as to what you'd throw at me.

Marce- Don't be sad, I loved the end result and have gobbled them up! That being said, I would never refuse you if you showed up at my door with a big pot of dulce de leche!

Valentina and The Gourmand- Those look amazing, you two could team up to give me lessons...

Pilar- Gracias!

Pam said...

If you're not comfortable boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk, David Lebovitz has his recipe for Dulce de Leche posted on his blog: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2005/11/#000145
Seems somewhat less dangerous to me. I haven't tried it yet, but I plan to make some soon.

By the way...I really like your newly designed site! Looks great!

thepassionatecook said...

stunning picture... and i love dulce de leche so much! i used to live off the stuff (or rather its cousin cajeta) when i lived in mexico... brings back good memories!