It’s right around the corner. Christmas is knocking on our doors. It’s coming to me without family, snow or a big Christmas tree. When it comes down to it, what does Christmas mean to you? I’m learning that it doesn’t always have to have snow. There’s only a small percentage of the world that gets snow for Christmas if snow at all, so Christmas can’t be all about snow. And our North American traditions are lost on the Peruvians down here. I even played some Vincent Guaraldi – Charlie Brown music and my Peruvian friend, Sammy, asked, “Is this Christmas music?”
Chad has Slingbox, so on Thanksgiving we were able to watch football, and I was so sad when I saw that stores were opening at 9 o’clock that evening to start “Black Friday.” Really, consumerism is consuming the hearts of many across the map. It makes me think of 1 John 2:14-17. I think sometimes Christians can come off as hippies, but truth be told, it’s all about love.
For me, Christmas is all about love. That’s why we give presents, not because it’s a big excuse to spend money on things we want, but there’s a big ball of love backed-up behind that gift. It reflects what we celebrate on Christmas. It’s Christ’s birth and the love our Father has shown us by taking form of man and living amongst us.
I love baking, and in turn, love baking for other people. This year I decided to make something for the people that I’m coming to know as friends and who are coming to know Christ as their Savior. I actually felt the love pouring out of my hands into these cookies.
These cookies are easy to make. And they are a true Peruvian/Latin American classic. They are everywhere in street-vendors’ stands. They are called alfajores (ahl-fah-hor-ehs (accent is on the -hor- syllable)). They are shortbread type of cookies made into caramel sandwiches. They are buttery, flaky, caramelly, GOODNESS! WARNING: You will need to eat over the table, sink, or plate.
I wrapped these little cookies into stacks with cellophane and strings and will be playing Santa and will deliver these little sweets to my contacts today. I hope it’s not too late for you to try this for your friends.
What cookies are you making this year?!
2 cups flour – sifted
1/4 cup powdered sugar – sifted
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter cut into small pieces and softened to room temp
1 1/2 cup condensed milk OR dulce de leche
Alright, so like I said, it looks easy right? It is! And it works perfectly at high altitudes because, ♪ duh duh duuuuuh ♪♪ it’s got absolutely no leavening. Love it.
The reason I say condensed milk or dulce de leche is that you can make your own dulce de leche (which down here is not called dulce de leche, but manjar (mahn-hahr)). Go here to get the low-down. If you make your own you will want to start this first.
Put your dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and with a fork whisk them together so it’s all evenly incorporated. Then start putting pieces of butter into the mixture and begin to cut it in. I actually didn’t even measure my butter, I just cut it in until it formed a smooth, unsticky dough. When it can form easily into a ball, that’s when you’ve put in the right amount of butter. You may have to use your hands at one point to sort of knead in the drier parts that won’t mix easily.
Note: This is kind of like pie dough, so if you haven’t guessed it already, you can use a food processor. Now, if I had a food processor you wouldn’t think this blog would be called The Handicapped Kitchen, do you?! Go here to find detailed instructions on using a food processor for this recipe.
Once your dough is made put it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and take the dough out of the fridge. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/8″ thickness. You can use whatever you want to cut out the shapes. I used a cup and some Christmas shaped cookie-cutters. This recipe calls for a 2″ round cookie cutter to make about 16-18 cookies. If you double the recipe like I did you can make the same amount of 3″ or 4″ sized cups.
Place the cut dough onto a parchment or foil lined cookie sheet and bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden and firm. Take out of the oven and let sit for five minutes before transferring to cooling rack or towel.
Let cool for 25 minutes so they are completely cool. Then you can start making the sandwiches by spreading the dulce de leche/manjar on your pieces and… well do I really have to tell you how to make sandwiches?!
Voila! You have delicious cookies to share with your friends and family. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!