Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dulce de Leche Shortbread Sandwich Cookies

Dulce De Leche Shortbread Sandwiches
Home Cooking


I have to admit - I am a huge victim of my own personal cravings.

This conflicts with the fact that I like to have everything planned and scheduled. Case in point: Charlie and I have started our 2009 budget scheme. Because I like to be precise about these types of things (I secretly enjoy making budgets), I go as far as planning what we're eating for every meal of each week to come.

In other words, today being Monday, I already had allocated meals in mind.

Let's see... the implementation of this budget officially started... well, TODAY in fact.

And I have failed abysmally at following my own plans (that I created only yesturday).

It started in the wee hours of this morning. I was having trouble falling asleep, convinced that I was starving to death. I comforted myself by planning what to cook for breakfast the next morning. In my original plan, I was just going to have cereal but look, when it's 2am in the morning and all you can think about is how hungry you are, it's reasonable to give excuses and fantasize about baking large batches of cookies or tarts to munch on when you wake up.

As a matter of fact, I wasn't at all hungry when I woke up this morning but I still had the urge to bake since I had psyched myself up so much.

This lead to much effort in baking my own Chinese-style egg tarts. Since that wasn't a total success (the custard component was OK but my attempt at shortcrust pastry was embarrassing and completely disproportionate to the amount of labor), I am not blogging that recipe. It has, however, given me enough encouragement to bake another batch of egg tarts sometime in the future and if that is a success, I'll be happy to share.

Further along in the day, I made the decision to try my ice-cream machine. I was given a Dome ice-cream machine for Christmas and after several failed attempts, I put it away for a while. Today, I thought I'd give it ONE more go.

Part of my eating plan was that I would be baking a chocolate mousse cake for our 8 month anniversary (yes, we do still celebrate every month. Trust me, each month is a miracle). I thought that a rich chocolate cake would not be complete without a simple vanilla ice-cream so that's what I set out to do.

The machine didn't work so I am hand-churning the ice-cream in intervals, even as I type. There will be more about my ice-cream making and cake-baking in a later entry.

Now, I shall go onto the event of the day.

I bought myself "The Perfect Scoop" by David Lebovitz when I got my ice-cream machine. It is one of the more highly recommended ice-cream recipe books but he also gives recipes on toppings, mix-ins and sauces to compliment your ice-cream creations.

One that caught my attention was a sauce named Dulce de Leche. I still don't know how to pronounce this but it looks good on paper and when I saw this sauce raved about in several other places online, I became curious. When I re-read the recipe and discovered how easy it was to make, I was convinced to give it ago. As in... to give it a go RIGHT NOW.

And that's how I found myself baking at 9pm when I should have long stopped thinking about eating. Well well.

Dulce de Leche
Makes approx 1 jar

Ingredients:
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 pinch salt
Procedure:

1. Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius.
2. Pour the condensed milk into a small glass pie dish or nonreactive metal dish. I just used a square souffle ramekin.
3. Cover the dish with foil and place the dish inside larger tray. I used a square cake pan.
4. Pour hot water into the tray/pan until it comes to halfway up the side of the dish with the condensed milk.
5. Place in middle rack of oven and bake for approx 1 hr to 1 hr 30min. You have to keep checking at regular intervals and remove the tray when the top of the condensed milk is light brown. It might be necessary to top up the water at times.
Note: I left my dish for a bit too long so the sides got a bit burnt. This left a weird flavor when I whipped my sauce up so I do stress you keep your eye on the tray to prevent this from happening.
6. Cool the dish to room temperature (approx 30min) and whip up till smooth.
7. You may infuse some flavors into the sauce at this point. I added approx 1 tsp vanilla extract and a dash of Grand Marnier.
8. Store in a jar in the fridge - you simply reheat in the microwave if you want to soften it up before using. It can be stored for up to a month.

I didn't want to mix it in through my vanilla ice-cream so I started looking up ideas for sandwiching the sauce between 2 biscuits, or cookies.

My final choice was shortbread. I think shortbread is under-rated. You may associate it with grandmas and there is an unfortunate notion that shortbread is bland and unexciting. I make no such associations. I get shortbread cravings all the time but I've never baked my own and I imagined it to go perfectly with the Dulce de Leche.

I followed 2 recipes for the shortbread. One is from www.joyofbaking.com and the other is from "Cook with Jamie" by Jamie Oliver. Jamie's recipe uses a mix of cornflour and plain flour. He does not chill the dough because the dough is packed in a brownie tray and the shortbread is cut into fingers AFTER baking. I wanted a nicer shape, since I'm sandwiching the cookies so I followed some steps from the other recipe.

Shortbread Cookies
Makes 32 individual cookies (or 16 sandwiches) - depends on size
I made 12 sandwiches and 6 small fingers

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup cornflour
  • a pinch of salt
Procedure:

1. Combine the plain flour, cornflour and salt to ensure an even mixture.
2. Beat the butter with an electric mixture until soft (approx 1 min).
3. Add the caster sugar and keep beating until fluffy and white (approx 2-3min).
4. Add the vanilla extract to the butter/sugar mix.
5. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter, either with a spatula or constantly beating on low speed with your electric mixer.
6. When the dough comes together, scrape it into a ball and flatten on your bench.
7. Wrap in cling wrap and pop into the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.
8. Roll out our dough on a lightly floured surface (with a lightly floured rolling pin) till it is about 5mm thick.
9. Use a cookie cutter (floured) to cut into regular circles. Place these onto baking paper, leaving some space between each one. You may have to recombine the residue dough and roll out again so that no bits go to waste. Prick the cookies with a fork.

10. Place the baking paper back into the fridge for another 15-20min. This ensures that the cookies keep their shape in the oven.
11. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
12. Bake the cookies in the middle rack of the oven, on the baking paper for 8-10 min or until they are lightly brown.
13. Cool on a rack before sandwiching with the Dulce de Leche (of course, you may also use other fillings or just eat plain!) Dust with icing sugar before serving.
Note: the cookies can keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week but apparently you can freeze them for a month. I wouldn't try that myself but I assume you'd just let it return to room temperature before serving.
I actually cooked my shortbread both Jamie-style and using a cookie-cutter. I had some left over dough after cutting the cookies so I pressed it into my mini loaf pan, perforated the surface and popped it into the oven. I can see how that is much easier than using the cookie-cutter. It was quite difficult to keep the shapes nice and circular when the dough is so fragile and crumbly!
I've promised myself to only eat 1 cookie sandwich tonight and the rest are going to be a present for my parents for their Chinese New Year Eve party. I'm positive they're going to get a welcome reception.

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