Saturday, April 16, 2016

OEOO Stop #1 - Argentinian Alfajores

I was getting a little tired of baking the same stuff over and over again, so I decided to add a little international flare to my baking repertoire.  I'm calling my series "One Earth, One Oven - A World-Wide Baking Adventure", and ultimately I would like to bake a famous dessert from each of the countries on Earth.

According to the US Department of State (as of April 16, 2016), there are 205 recognized countries on Earth.  Alphabetically, Afghanistan is the first on the list and Zimbabwe is last; with 203 other places sandwiched in between.  That is a lot of territory to cover, so lets start baking.  I'm not going in an particular order and I just want to bounce around the list as an interesting recipe catches my eye.

First to be baked on my One Earth, One Oven - A World-Wide Baking Adventure is the:

Argentinian Alfajores 

Now what is an Alfajores?  Well, after baking it I can tell you it is something like a very tender, shortbread or sugar cookie that is slathered with dulce de leche and stacked to make a sandwich.  The cookie part of the alfajores is soft and it little bit crumbly.  It is tender and delicate, and simply melts in your mouth.  The recipe I used also included lime zest so the cookie had a mild, citrus-y tang.   And the dulce de leche filling --- Wow.  Dulce de leche is similar in taste to soft caramel and it is pure heaven.  Finally to complete the melody of flavors, the alfajores are rolled in sweetened coconut. 

And the secret to the tender texture of the cookie, and what makes it different from shortbread or sugar or sandies, is a huge amount of cornstarch in the dough. Yep cornstarch.  Now I've used cornstarch by the tablespoon before, but this recipe uses it by the cupful!  The copious amount of cornstarch actually gives the cookie an odd kind of dry taste.  It is not unpleasant, just different.  And if the cookies are allowed to sit overnight, the cookie will start to draw moisture and flavors from the dulce de leche into the cookie itself.

So the cookie dough starts with sugar and soft butter that is cream till it is almost white in color (5-10 minutes), and then egg yolks, vanilla, and lime zest is added.

Next the mixture of flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and baking powder is added all at once.  It will take 5-10 minutes for the ingredients to fully combine, so don't get discouraged and think that something is messed up.  In the end the dough will look a little crumbly, but it will stick together when you roll it out. 

Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness.  I split the dough into thirds and rolled it between two pieces of parchment paper.  If you use the parchment paper you don't need to flour the surface to keep the dough from sticking.  If you look closely at the picture below you will see the little flecks of lime zest.

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 12-14 minutes.  Watch them closely and don't allow them to brown.   The cookies don't spread much, so you can place them close together on the cookie sheet.  Once they are cool, filling with the dulce de leche.  You can make your own dulce de leche by simmering a can of sweetened condensed milk in a water bath for a few hours, but at Wally-World the can of Nestle la Lechera was just 50 cents more than a can of condensed milk so I just took the easy route.

I used a star tip to pipe the filling onto the cookies.  As you can see I was pretty skimpy with the dulce de leche.  Next time I will use LOTS more filling.  The filling really makes the cookie.

And as a final step, the cookie is rolled in coconut. 

I also rolled some in nuts and also dipped some in melted chocolate and then sprinkled with nuts and coconut.  You can make these things as fancy or as plain as you want.

So what do you think of these Argentinian Alfajores??  Pretty sweet, huh?  I think this baking adventure is going to be a lot of fun -- and a little fattening...

Happy Baking,


Argentinian Alfajores

(adapted from Cooking with Books)


250 grams All-purpose Flour ( approximately 1-3/4 cups)
250 grams Cornstarch ( approximately 1-3/4 cups)
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
225 grams Unsalted Butter, softened ( 2 sticks)
150 grams granulated sugar (approximately 2/3 cup)
3 Large Egg Yolks
1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Fresh Lime Zest
13 oz can Dulce de leche
1/2 cup Coconut, shredded


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Sift together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
  3. Cream the softened butter and  sugar until very pale in color (approximately 5 minutes).
  4. Add egg yolks, vanilla and line zest, to the butter/sugar and mix until combined.
  5. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix until completely incorporated (5-10 minutes).
  6. Divide the dough into thirds, roll dough out to 1/4 inch thick, and then cut out using a circle cookie cutter.
  7. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  The cookies don't spread very much so you can put them close together.
  8. Bake for 12-14 minutes.  Don't let them brown.
  9. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before filling.
  10. Pipe the dulce de leche on the top of a cookie, and make sure you pipe close to the edge.  Place a second cookie on top of the piped dulce de leche and gently press the two cookies together.  You want the dulce de leche to squeeze slightly from between the cookies so the coconut can stick.
  11. Roll the cookie in shredded coconut allowing the coconut to stick to the exposed dulce de leche.
  12. Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Seven Flavor Scones - Going wild with extracts

Have you ever wondered what a cake would tasted like if you added every extract in your pantry to the mix?  Would it be good? Bad? Or would it smell like heaven on earth?

I first tried this melding of flavors in the famous Five/Seven Flavor Pound Cake, and it was fabulous.  Rather than fighting against each other, the extracts combined into a fragrant symphony. I even converted my favorite pound cake recipes into a five flavor masterpiece.

Then I got the bright idea of making a Seven Flavor Scone, and you know, it turn out pretty tasty.

This particular scone recipe is the light, fluffy variety, almost cake-like in its texture, and I used seven different extracts in the dough.  The original Five Flavor recipe called for rum extract, but my rum extract had expired so I used two types of vanilla.  I also reduced the amount of coconut and pineapple extract jut because the coconut can overpower the other flavors and I didn't want my scones to taste too tropical.

Just out of the oven they are puffy and tender and nicely brown.  And when you lift the scone to your mouth you get a whiff of different aromas that both confuse and intrigue.  Does it smell like almond or vanilla or something citrus-y?  It reminds me of a bouquet of flowers.  Each flower has its own scent and together the various aromas smell heavenly.

So if you have lots of different extracts in your pantry - give this light fluffy Seven Flavor Scone a try. 

Happy Baking,


Seven Flavor Scones

(adapted from Dorrie Greenspan's Cream Scones)


2/3 cup heavy cream, cold
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/2 teaspoon extract and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon butter flavor
1/4 teaspoon  coconut extract (optional)
1/4 teaspoon pineapple extract (optional)
1/4 teaspoon rum extract (optional)

2 cups all-purpose flour (I used White Lily)
2-6 tablespoons granulated sugar (use 2-6 tablespoons depending on how sweet you like your scones - I like them sweet so I use 6)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tiny pieces and chilled

2 tablespoons coarse sanding sugar for sprinkling on top of the unbaked scones (optional)


  1. Center rack in oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut the butter into tiny pieces and place in freezer to chill.
  3. Using a fork stir the egg into the cream and then add all the desired extracts and the lemon juice.  The lemon juice will activate the backing soda and give the scones more lift and airiness.  Place the cream mixture in the refrigerator to keep it chilled.
  4. Whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Drop in the chilled butter and use your fingers to break up and coat the pieces with flour. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture is pebbly. 
  6. Reserve 1  tablespoon of the cream mixture.  This will be brushed onto the top of the scones before baking.
  7. Pour the remaining cream mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork until the dough just comes together.  Use a spatula to turn the dough 8 or 10 times.  It will be wet and sticky.
  8. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball.  Divide the dough in half.
  9. Working with half of the dough at a time gently flatten the ball and fold the flatten disk in half.  Turn the dough disk 1/4 turn.  Flatten the dough again and then fold in half.  Turn the dough and flatten and fold again.  You want to fold the dough a total of three times.  This folding action will help the dough rise.   Perform the same folding method with the second half of the dough.
  10. After the final fold, pat the dough into a rough 5 inch circle.  Cut into six wedges.
  11. Using a pastry brush, brush the top of the dough with the reserved cream mixture, and then sprinkle with the coarse sanding sugar.  Note: at this point the dough can be frozen and baked at a later time.
  12. Transfer the dough to a baking stone or pan, and gently separate the wedges.  
  13. Bake the scones for 20-22 minutes, or until the tops are golden and firm.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving.  If baking from a frozen state, add 2 minutes to the baking time.