I’ll tell you this, I’ve never had a better shortbread base for a cookie before, and I’ve eaten a lot of shortbread in my life. I think, technically, it isn’t true shortbread thanks to the brilliant addition of cornstarch in the dough that offers an ethereal lightness to the cookies, but they are tremendously tasty, which is good enough for me. And if you want to know my true colors, I’d eat just about smothered in dulce de leche. Don’t judge. Popular in South America and called Alfajores, these tender, indulgent little cookies are perfect for the holidays. They are delicious as all get out and they are pretty to look at. That’s a win-win in my cookie exchange dictionary.
Happy cookie baking, everyone!
Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies
*Note: Storebought dulce de leche is pretty widely available in most grocery stores in the Mexican food aisle. I always have homemade dulce on hand because it is so stinking easy to make. Also, I prefer Dutch-process cocoa powder for sprinkling since it’s a bit less bitter but natural, unsweetened will work fine, too. This dough is fairly crumbly so measure the cornstarch and flour with a light hand (fluff up the flour or cornstarch before scooping in your measuring cup and then level the top with a flat edge).
*Makes about 20-24 cookies
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups cornstarch
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon packed minced orange zest (from 1 large orange)
1 can (14-ounce) dulce de leche
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer (or in the bowl of an electric stand mixer) until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the egg yolks and orange zest and mix until combined. Add half the flour mixture and mix until just blended. Add the other half of the dry ingredients. The dough is going to be pretty crumbly. My advice is to abandon the mixer and use your hands to gather the dough, pressing it together into a cohesive mixture. If the dough is being stubborn about coming together, add a few drops of water until it comes together.
Divide the dough in half and press into thick disks. Cover in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. If chilled longer, let it rest at room temperature until it is no longer cold before rolling out.
On a well-floured surface, roll one disk to about 1/8- to ¼-inch thick. Keep your rolling pin well floured and turn the dough every so often to make sure it isn’t sticking to the counter. Cut the dough into squares or circles using a 2-inch cookie cutter. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets. They can be spaced fairly close together as they don’t spread much at all. Repeat the rolling until all the dough is cut into cookies.
Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until the edges are lightly golden. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. When cool, scoop about 2 teaspoons or so dulce de leche onto half the cookies. Top with the remaining cookies and lightly dust with cocoa powder.