Tag Archives: sweet treats

Caramel Week: Chocolate Alfajores

Chocolate Alfajores for Caramel Week - Inside NanaBread's Head

Definition: Alfajores (Al-fa-ho-res) are a South American type of shortbread sandwich cookie that are filled with dulce de leche (caramel filling). These delicious cookies can trace their origin back to the Moorish occupation of Andalusia, Spain and the great culinary traditions of the Mediterranean Basin.

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To celebrate Caramel Week, I tried a new twist on a traditional favorite – a chocolate version filled with homemade salted vanilla bean caramel, both in the traditional scalloped round shape and a less traditional square.

Chocolate Alfajores Close-Up - Inside NanaBread's Head

Chocolate Alfajores: The Cookie Dough (makes 3-4 dozen)

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or 2 tsp. vanilla extract)
Dulce de leche caramel (recipe below or store-bought)
powdered sugar & cocoa for dusting

Cream the butter & sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, mixing after each addition, then beat in vanilla bean paste or extract until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and cocoa; sift to remove all lumps. Turning the mixer to low speed, gradually add the flour and beat until it just starts to come together; turn the mixer to medium and beat 10-15 seconds. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead the dough into a smooth ball; pat into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour or until firm.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Line several baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats and set aside. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough to 1/4″ thick, making sure the dough doesn’t stick to the counter or board. Using a 2″ cookie cutter (round & fluted is traditional), cut out the cookies and carefully transfer them to the baking sheets, about 1″ apart.

Place the cookie sheets into the freezer and allow the dough to chill for 15-20 minutes, or until very firm. Once firm, pop them into the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tops are firm to the touch. Cool on the baking sheet for 10-15 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

You can save time by buying a jar of dulce de leche caramel (Trader Joe’s has a great one) but if you want to tackle it from scratch, here’s mine.

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel: (makes approximately 2 1/2 cups)

2 cans ( ozs. each) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 to 2 cups heavy whipping cream, as needed
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

In a large heavy bottom saucepan, heat the sweetened condensed milk until it comes to a boil, stirring often. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until it turns a golden tan color. If the mixture starts to thicken, add heavy cream 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly. Continue to cook until the caramel turns a light brown shade, adding cream to thin it out some as needed. The finished caramel should coat a spoon thickly, but still pour from the spoon easily. When it reaches that stage, remove it from the heat and add whisk in the vanilla bean paste and sea salt. Allow the caramel to cool completely before using.

To Assemble the Alfajores:

Lay the cooled cookies out in rows so you can work quickly. I like to place one row ‘bottoms up’ and the next ‘face up’ so I can keep my pairs matched. Scrape the caramel mixture into a piping bag with a star tip and twist it until the caramel is compressed into the bottom of the bag. Pipe a generous layer of caramel onto the bottom side of half of the cookies. Using the remaining cookies, put a lid on each alfajor and gently press to make sure it’s seated. Once all cookies are filled, dust them lightly with powdered sugar or, as I did, a combination of powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Then try not to eat them all at once.

Chocolate Alfajores by Inside NanaBread's Head

If alfajores have piqued your interest, please drop by my friend Kirsten’s blog at Comfortably Domestic. She baked up a batch using her favorite shortbread recipe and a deep, dark caramel that will make your mouth water. Pinky swear.

Recipe Source: The caramel shown is my own recipe. The alfajor cookie dough was adapted slightly from Vianney Rodriguez at Sweetlifebake.com, who used the recipe from The Cookiepedia cookbook by Stacy Adimando. If you’d like to see Vianney’s traditional vanilla alfajor dough, CLICK HERE.

Chocolate Alfajores with Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel - Inside NanaBread's Head

For more Caramel Week goodies, visit our other Theme Weavers:

MONDAY:
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – Crock Pot Dulce de Leche Caramel

Madelyn at La Petite Pancake – Caramel Banana Bread Pudding

Rebeka at Kvetchin Kitchen – Caramel Apple Pie

TUESDAY:
Allison at Decadent Philistines – Salted Caramel Pork Loin with Shaved Brussel Sprout & Apple Salad

Carrie at Bakeaholic Mama – Chewy Milk Dud Brownies

WEDNESDAY:
Jeanne at Inside NanaBread’s Head – Chocolate Alfajor Cookies (that’s me!)

Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – Vanilla Alfajor Cookies

Haley at The Girly Girl Cooks – Almost Famous Fairground Caramel Sauce

Lauren at Climbing Grier Mountain – Dulce de Leche Milkshakes

THURSDAY:
Kat at Tenaciously Yours – Caramel Popcorn Crunch Sundae

Beka at Kvetchin’ Kitchen – Red Wine Caramel Sauce

Christina at Buffy and George – Butterscotch Pudding

FRIDAY:
Megan at Country Cleaver – Pear & Caramel Mini-Cheesecakes

Madeline at Munching in the Mitten – Caramel Cake

SATURDAY:
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – DIY Dulce de Leche Caramel Coffee Creamer

Katie at The Hill Country Cook – Salted Caramel Pie

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My Halloween “To Do” List

October is around the corner, kids. Right around the corner. Practically peeking out at us. And because fall is my favorite season and because I’m a nut for all things Halloween, I thought I’d share a few things on my ‘to do’ list this year.

A new twist on candied apples from Parents Magazine 2010

How cute are these? Taken from the pages of Parents Magazine in 2010, My Baby shared this with me. I’ve been dying to make them all year. All I need is a basket of apples, a bag of candies and a weekend with the grandkids. That little green apple guy with the marshmallow top hat just knocks my socks off.

Dracula Mice? Oh yeah. I'm in!

We found these little guys at a Christmas Market in Ludwigsburg, Germany last year. The pear mice are adorable, but those vampire mice? They would be perfect for Halloween. They’re made with fresh apples or pears, chocolate coating, royal frosting and M&Ms. I’d skip the sticks and add licorice tails.

These are the most delicious spiders you'll ever eat.

I love these brownie spiders. They are a snap to make and they are oh so delicious. Using your favorite brownie recipe or mix, bake the brownies as directed. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool completely. Using a round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out 6-8 spider bodies. Using a spoon, remove a scoop of brownie from the pan and roll it in the palm of your hand to form a small ball for the head. Grab some M&Ms for the eyes and a tube of black Wilton sparkle gel from the cake decorating section of your grocery store. To serve, I like to paint a spider web on each plate with black sparkle gel. Place the round body section just off center in the middle of the plate. Place the head right next to the body. Using sparkle gel, put a small dab on the back of each M&M and stick them to the spider’s face. Finish with a dot of sparkle gel in the center of each eyeball. Top with a scoop of ice cream and your favorite sauce.

What would Halloween be without a few creepy treats?

This is another easy one. Just melt white chocolate candy coating and pour it into a plastic zip bag. Snip one corner of the bag off and pipe onto pretzels. Place an M&M in the center of each and allow them to cool until hardened. Using a small tube of red decorating gel (Wilton has a line found in most grocery stores), pipe onto eyeballs so that some are blood-shot. A small dot of black decorating gel finishes the look. Allow the gel to dry to the touch without your finger sticking to it, then you can bag them and tie them with a ribbon for gifts.

I want my Mummy!

I love these little guys. If you’re a multi-tasker, you can whip out a batch of these while you’re making your blood-shot eyeballs. All you need is a package of the large rod pretzels, a bag or two of white chocolate candy coating, and black decorating gel. Simply melt the candy coating and pour it into a deep container like a quart mason jar or a heavy drinking glass. Dip each pretzel rod into the melted candy coating, allowing the excess to drip off. Place them onto a sheet of waxed paper. Allow them to cool until they are firm to the touch. Melt more of the white chocolate candy coating and pour it into a plastic zip bag. Cut off the tip, and moving from side to side horizontally pipe the “stripes” onto the mummies to give them that ‘bandaged’ look. You don’t need to be perfect here. Having some a little off kilter adds to the fun. Once they’ve started to firm up again, lift each pretzel by the uncoated end and use a butter knife to scrape off any candy coating ‘strings’ from the sides. Eyes and mouths are created with black decorating gel. These little mummies look great when you stand them up in a container. Tip: put a cup of raw rice in the bottom of your container and they’ll stand upright. These make a great centerpiece for a Halloween party.

Who could resist these adorable Halloween treats?

Who says adults can’t play with their food? Not me. Not ever. And October is the perfect time to do it with enthusiasm. Care to join me?

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