This recipe is inspired by the traditional Argentine alfajor: a cookie sandwich filled with dulce de leche, sometimes dipped in chocolate for the ultimate decadence. Making these can be a bit fiddly, so this tray-bake offers all that is wonderful about the alfajor to feed many in much less time. Alfajores are the afterschool treat of many an Argentine kid, and many varieties line the kioskos (corner markets) in tempting arrays.
Argentines knock it out of the park with the crumbliest of shortbreads. Their secret is to use cornflour instead of flour in the shortbread base. Here, we adapt by using a bit of both flours both a for a stable and crumbly version. Orange zest and orange liqueur take it over the top.
It’s a great packable picnic dessert. We love to decorate with a rosemary leaf for beauty since it adds the perfect aroma and (we hope!) adult sophistication to this kid-at-heart dessert. We hope you try them! Who knows, maybe dulce de leche is the secret to great soccer.
Dulce de Leche Squares
Serves many, using a quarter-sheet pan (9 by 13 inches.) If you don’t own a quarter-sheet, approximate with any similar-sized pan
1 cup flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon orange zest. Use a Microplane to get super-fine zest!
8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs yolks
1 tablespoon orange liqueur, like Citronge or Cointreau
2 cups dulce de leche
8 ounces dark chocolate
rosemary sprig, if desired
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Mix together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Use a stand mixer or electric beaters to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the yolks, brandy, and zest and mix until just combined. Sift in the flour mixture: you’ll have the perfect shortbread base. Press down the shortbread dough, and pop it into the oven until it is just catching a golden brown color, about 20 minutes. Allow it to cool and then add the dulce de leche on top. When finished, be sure to lick the spatula as your reward.
For the chocolate layer, melt about ⅔ of the chocolate over a double boiler. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow the chocolate to cool to body temperature. (Test this by putting a teeny bit of chocolate on your lip — another reward — it should feel just warm, not hot.) “Seed” the chocolate with the remaining chocolate: adding it and allowing it to melt. Your chocolate is now in temper. When you pour it on top of the dulce de leche, it will cool and harden nicely, and be room-temperature stable. Add a rosemary sprig, Maldon salt, whatever you may fancy for the top.
Note: if you don’t mind about stability of the squares (because you’re not picnicking and can serve them straight from the fridge), skip the seeding step and melt all the chocolate with a tablespoon of grapeseed or other neutral oil. That will give the top a nice sheen.)