It’s been said that Portland has the best summer weather in the country.
That might be true. It’s usually 80-ish during the day and holds a gentle heat through the evening with the respite of cool happening later in the night, but lately it’s been super hot. Maybe it’s global warming, but like so many areas in the country, we’ve been living in 90 degrees plus.
Those temperatures surges, however, are tolerable with time-appropriate cold beverages like blackberry smoothies
or a bourbon rocks
and central air-conditioning makes everything better so we’ve been inside a little more than usual.
There’ve been more birthday celebrations.
Charlotte turned 14 and we made a day out of it.
We hung out a good part of the day with our favorite neighbor and her adorable baby.
We window shopped around Division
and had a late breakfast bite at Little T American Baker, one of my favorite bakeries in town.
We then returned to my neighbor’s oversized backyard with a fantastic new play structure that came all the way from one of my favorite areas of the country — Rockport, Maine.
We picnicked (one of my favorite verbs ever), enjoying this tomato-cucumber-Rainier cherry beauty
and pizza from Baby Doll.
Charlotte opened some presents and we just gabbed for hours.
Night time was all about treats of her choosing: Steak Frites for dinner and a family movie (a rom-com, natch).
Happy birthday, my beautiful daughter.
You are my sunshine. My cashmere poncho. My Yukon Gold potatoes drizzled with truffle oil.
What else do we have to show for ourselves?
There’s been other fun stuff going on around here — most of it food-related and enjoyed while binge-watching in air-conditioned comfort.
Take out pizza from Ranch PDX.
Oversized Sharp Cheddar and Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (every one should be at least a foot long!).
And tomatoes around the clock.
Who doesn’t love a scrumptious BLT — especially when the bacon is this insanely good, the steelhead roasted with lemon, and the tomatoes this luscious?
There’s been one more fun discovery around here.
Not familiar with this cookie (famous throughout Spain and Latin Amercia)? They are a lovely, crumbly, shortbread-ish butter cookie that are filled with homemade dulce de leche.
I was browsing through some cookbooks lately looking for a new treat for us and I stumbled upon this book — one I haven’t cracked open in a long time.
The Alfajores recipe was the first one I noticed and I instantly remembered this cookie from my time in San Francisco. I used to run a food and wine shop there (located on the top floor of Neiman Marcus) and I was able to buy any local product I wanted. I sold an excellent version of this cookie at my bake shop and customers would come in and buy dozens of Alfajores at a time (one time a woman bought a couple hundred dollars of them and then overnighted them to friends).
This cookie inspires that kind of fanatical devotion, and I was eager to make them for the first time.
The recipe for the dough is simple enough, and it pulled together in minutes.
I rolled the dough out and then cut into dainty scalloped circles and put them back in the fridge to keep cold (so they wouldn’t spread too much while baking) and then set out to make the dulce de leche.
I make homemade caramel often enough that I wasn’t daunted by the process, but I either made a mistake or the recipe was a bit of wonky. My dulce de leche was too thin (despite cooking it 50% longer than maximum suggested time) and lacked the requisite deep caramel-y goodness (or maybe my milk didn’t have the requisite fat?). I even cooked it a little longer, still hoping to give it both an increased thickness and an enhanced flavor but no luck.
Stuck with this sub-par filling, Charlotte tasted it and recommend I cook it down with caramel added to it, and that’s exactly what it needed. The end result was sticky and caramelly and intensely fragrant and the perfect density for this cookie. (Big props to C on that one).
I baked off the cookies, let them cool and then filled them with the filling and returned them to the fridge (for some reason my rendition tasted better chilled than room temperature).
The cookies, originally crisp post-bake, softened considerably in the fridge with the filling inside, and we loved them.
Obviously you can choose the diameter/portion size. I opted to go-big-or-go-home sized (the size of a slider?) but mini ones would work really well, too (especially since they’re doubled up with a rich filling inside).
Do I recommend this recipe? Yes, but with the caveat that there might be a better one out there (and I know that there are far better bakers than I). I’ve already heard from Instagrammers about this cookie, and I’m hoping to get more hints along the way.
As we speak I’m waiting for a recipe from my stepson’s lovely girlfriend Tessa (her family is on Team Alfajore Obsessed) who always uses her Grandma’s recipe (with part shortening/part butter and her Dulce de Leche uses condensed milk.)
I mean, isn’t this a cookie worth perfecting?
(By the way, are you on IG? If so, say hi to me there and tag me with things you’re cooking. Find me on Instagram @portlandsampler.)
I’m not going to include the filling recipe from this book since I either goofed it or its amounts were off; either way, a simple Google search should do or you could even pick up a toothsome variation at TJ’s or at better grocery stores. I think I may even research Instapot and condensed milk?
Either way, find a way to include this delectable sandwich cookie in your life. And in the lives of those you most care about.
My little friend loved his micro-cookie so much he didn’t want to surrender the plate.
Your waistline might be sorry you discovered this gem– but your inner glutton will say hallelujah.
- 2¼ C. unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 8 Tbs. unsalted butter, very soft
- 1 C. sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 Tbs. brandy or rum
- 1 C. Dulce de Leche, homemade or purchased
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds in the oven.
- Combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or fork.
- With a large spoon in a medium mixing bowl or with a mixer, mix the butter with the sugar until smooth and well blended but not fluffy. Add the egg and brandy and mix until smooth. Add the flour mixture and mix until completely incorporated.
- Shape heaping teaspoons of dough into 1 inch balls. (or, on a lightly floured surface, shape dough into a square and cut into 8 strips and then cut each strip into 8 pieces to make a total of 64 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 1 inch ball.)
- For miniature cookies, shape level teaspoons of dough into 96 smaller balls.
- Place the cookies 2 inches apart on lined or ungreased pans nad and flatten to about ½ inch thick.
- Bake for 14 to 16 minutes for larger cookies or 12 to 15 minutes for miniature cookies, until the edges are lightly browned. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time.
- For lined pans, set the apn or just the liners to cool; for unlined pans, use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to racks. Cool the cookies completely before storing or filling.
- Sandwich the cookies with a generous dab of cooled or room temperature dulce de leche.
- The cookies will soften as they stand. They are good crunchy or soft. May be stored in an airtight container for at least a week.
- (We liked them best cold, straight from the fridge).