As we say goodbye to 2016, good or bad it is almost over. I am a strong believer that next moment/ day is new so if you want to change something in your life do it. Don’t wait till New Year’s to ring in. And for the same reason I am not the biggest fan of New Year’s resolutions. But I am a planner and like to set goals for future. So if you do have resolutions keep them accountable by having a numerical value to it. Looking back at 2016; it is definitely one hell of a roller coaster year for me. From starting this blog, passing an exam and deciding to move to New York.
Learning the ropes of blogging and progressing from unfocused photos to something noticeably better was pretty much my year. I started making recipes straight from book; changing nothing and now have progressed to making them with my own twist or personalization, bit by bit. With no prior education in photography/ pastry/ writing/ website related technical stuff, me a health care trained person definitely had a huge learning curve. Overall I am satisfied with everything except photos; which I plan to improve over the course of next year. Just as life, learning is a journey and not a destination for me; it never ends.
This post is all about giving you all glimpse of what’s coming for the blog next year (well if I don’t fall into procrastination mood). I will be whipping up cookies once a month, so what the catch right? Well they will be classic cookies with spices, yes you read them right spices! Everything from nutmeg, saffron to whole coriander seeds are in my radar. If you see or eat a cookie with spices or make any of mine don’t forget to use #cookieswithspices across all social media. To set the tone for coming year here is Pink Peppercorns Alfajores or Alfies as they are belovedly called in Latin American countries especially Argentina
My first taste was in Cafe Finca on my recent trip to Puerto Rico. A small cafe in colorful and iconic city of Old San Juan, Cafe Finca is not to be missed. It had one of the best coffee I ever had, on the counter was this banal cookie jar filled with plain sandwich cookie of some kind. Since I wanted something with my coffee, I ordered one to go. Later one bite and I was in clouds of heaven, crumbly, perfectly sweet and it had what I consider foods of God’s; dulce de leche. I vaguely remember the name that it started with A, I had to call Cafe Finca to get the full name.
Alfies are essentially sandwich cookies like shortbread with dulce de leche in between. It may sound unassuming but the texture is so perfect owing to cornstarch. Pink Peppercorn sounds weird right? But once you put this in your mouth you will have absolutely no words to describe the taste. The subtle and sophisticated flavor of pink peppercorn with shortbread like cookie and sweet caramel takes this delicate Alfajores to whole new dimensions. You will easily get Pink Peppercorns in well stocked spice stores, Whole Foods and online. Happy New Year!
Blog goals for 2017
- Layer cake
- Monthly #cookieswithspices
Recipe inspired from The New York Times
Makes 15 cookies
For dulce de leche
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk (substitute store-bought dulce de leche)
- 93 grams/ 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 128 grams/ 3/4 cup cornstarch
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 85 grams/ 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 70 grams/ ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon brandy/ dark rum
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns, freshly grounded using mortar and pestle
- 30 grams/ ½ cup dessicated coconut
Make dulce de leche
- Follow the instruction from here.
- Sift together both flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt, set aside
- Put butter in a stand mixer bowl and beat for 2 to 3 minutes using paddle attachment. Alternatively put it in large bowl and beat it using hand-held beater. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Add one egg at a time and mix well, then add extract and brandy.
- Slowly add the flour mixture and beat slowly, until just combined. (Do not overmix as gluten will develop making cookies tough)
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for an hour. Meanwhile line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- On a lightly floured surface roll the dough to ⅛ mm to ¼ mm thickness. Using a 1.5 inch to 2 inch round cookie cutter, get as many as you can from the first round (around 15). Arrange them on cookie sheet and put the sheet in refrigerator for about 10 minutes. Collect the remaining dough and reroll. You should get 30 cookies in all. Put the second sheet refrigerator too.
- Bake for 10 minutes or just until they are very light brown on edges (one sheet at a time), you want them to be white.
- Place the sheet on cooling rack and bake another sheet. Carefully move cookies to cooling rack and cool completely.
- Put 1 teaspoon of dulce de leche one of the side and sandwich them by twisting for even distribution. Dip the sides in dessicated coconut. Store them in airtight container for upto 4 days (they will soften eventually)
Note: Remaining dulce de leche is like liquid gold. Keep it refrigerated and use them over all sorts of things from apples to ice cream or straight from jar.