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Alfajores (Dulce de Leche Hearts)

Alfajores_00078.jpgSt. Valentine's Day will be here tomorrow, and it calls for heart-shaped goodies to express your passion.  Alfajores are melt-in-your-mouth sandwich cookies from South America, where they are especially popular in Argentina.  They should be very tender, which is accomplished by a good amount of cornstarch in the dough.  These cookies are always stuffed with dulce de leche, the thick, caramel-like sauce found at Latino markets, specialty shops, and many grocery stores.  The interesting thing about dulce de leche is that it is not caramelized with high heat, but gets its dark beige color from long and slow cooking and the Maillard reaction that turns the proteins in meat brown.  Well, forget the science lesson, and make these cookies for an extra couple of kisses from your sweetie.   

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Sugar Cookies and Royal Icing

Thumbnail image for cutout cookies5.jpgMy Christmas cookies are done! I come from a long line of Christmas cookie bakers, and they took the job very seriously.  My great aunts taught me to make an annual list of my cookies, and to take notes on the yields, adjustments to make next year, and other details.  They also showed me that while those gorgeous cookies in food magazines are inspiring, you had better balance the time-consuming ones with some more practical offerings.  Karen Tack, I'm not, but I still manage to make some pretty nice-looking sugar cookies.  My secret is to keep it simple.  By doing just one design (this year, green trees decorated with nonpareil sprinkles or shiny dragees to simulate ornaments), I am whip through many dozens in no time.  Read on to find my favorite sugar cookie recipe, and click here for more cookie making tips. 

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