I’ll admit it — I’m a sucker for farms and pumpkin patches….
I’ll admit it — I’m a sucker for farms and pumpkin patches….
All the kids are back at school.
The weather is taking a turn, and the leaves are falling with an increasing frequency and fervor.
And with time on my hands and a sweater now wrapped over my shoulders, my thoughts naturally turn to baking….
In many places, summer is when people leave town to enjoy greenier, sandier pastures….
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.
Most people might think you get a new dog and you’re suddenly more active.
But they haven’t met me — or Porter either, for that matter. He’s an absolute doll but he’s currently in need of a lot of TLC and a quiet, steady existence. So consequently we’re spending a lot of time in my kitchen, just hanging out.
What that means though is that instead of added steps to my routine, there’s been a lot of added treats; my need to be home-bound more means that I’m cooking and baking even more than usual while I facilitate Porter getting potty-trained and settled….
As Valentine’s Day approached, I tried to think what I should do that day….
What’s in a name?…
I love the lazy days of summer….
You know a tag sale is going to be good when you hear people are driving from Seattle, San Francisco and even all the way from Oklahoma just to frequent it.
Welcome to Magpie Ethel’s Annual Garage Sale.…
Spring cleaning just got real — real tasty that is….