It seems like not much and so much has happened this week and it’s only Wednesday. Not much meaning no earth-shattering developments, but so much meaning cookies. Lots of cookies. And Disney, but more on that later.
The cookies started because I’m taking part in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. I love baking for people and I love making care packages so it was obviously destined that I partake in the extravaganza. Anyhow, I tried to think of something to make that 1) would tie in with Mexico 2) would travel well and 3) would be well, yummy.
These little brainchildren came to mind: Dulce de Leche, or Cajeta, Shortbread Sandwich Cookies.
I hadn’t really heard of dulce de leche until I first saw one of my favorite movies, Guys and Dolls. You may be crapping hard on musicals, but let me tell you, to see Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra dance in suits may just change your mind. I was even so lucky to see this on the West End in London starring Ewan McGregor and Jane Krakowski. One of my favorite shows that I’ve seen to date. Anyway, in the movie, Brando’s character (Sky Masterson) is trying to, shall we say, loosen up his love interest, Sarah Brown while they’re gallivanting in Havana. He translates the dulce de leche for her to mean “sweet of milk” and after a sip, she declares it to be one tasty milkshake and drinks not only hers, but his. Fast forward to her singing about ringing bells and love around a fountain and it’s pretty obvious that it was no ordinary milkshake.
Dulce de leche literally does translate to sweet of milk, and it’s popular throughout Latin American countries. Its uses are not limited to alcoholic beverages, but can be used in countless ways: toast, coffee, ice cream…or just by the spoonful. In Mexico, this sweet wonderfulness is known as cajeta as is thought to have originated in Celaya in Central Mexico. According to Pati’s Mexican Table, traditional cajeta was around long before Argentina’s claim to the dulce and it made with goat’s milk (or a combination of goat and cow’s milk) rather than only cow’s milk, giving cajeta a much richer taste. Check out her post for a look at the in depth process of how cajeta is made in Celaya.
I thought that the cajeta would be fabulous sandwiched between some cornmeal cinnamon shortbreads, so that was the original plan. I was a bit in a time crunch and frankly didn’t want to put in the effort to make the cajeta from scratch, so I used the sweetened condensed milk shortcut. For what I’m sure is a great recipe for homemade cajeta, check out Pati’s or this one by Rick Bayless. If you attempt it, know that you can flavor it as you fancy, so be creative!
Now that I had my plan I got to work, and I was so excited about them that it wasn’t until I was elbow deep in flour with 76 little round disks already cut that I realized that these cookies, while sure to be perfect for my Central Mexican culinary exploits, would NOT fit the bill for my cookie swap because they would not pass #2. I don’t think these would travel well because they’d no doubt get soggy by the time they arrived at their destination three days later. FAIL. Big fail. And now I had a lot of cookies that were essentially of little use.
However, I finished them up, took some to work, some to book club and had some myself. Getting rid of cookies is rather easy, especially ones as good as these.
The cookies I decided DID work for the cookie swap will be coming at you December 15th, so stay tuned!
If you are having an in-town cookie swap, these would be perfect and different and no doubt very well received by anyone with good taste. And you know all your friends have good taste.
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar, plus more for dusting
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
- 2 TB yellow cornmeal
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Make the cajeta with the sweetened condensed milk.
- Cream the butter and sugar until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, salt and cinnamon and mix until well combined.
- Reduce speed to low and add the flour and cornmeal. Mix until all well-combined. Halve the dough and form into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill until cold, at least 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 300F. On a floured surface, roll out portions of dough into 1/8” thickness (these will be quite thin) and cut with a cookie cutter the size of a shot glass (that’s what I used….). Place them about 1” apart on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.
- Just before serving (or slightly before), fill with the cajeta and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
- The cajeta can take hours to make, so please account for that cooking time before you start rolling out cookie dough.
On the point of Disney, I was telling someone at work today that I was heading there for the rest of the week and he asked, “so, how old are the kids that you’re taking?” and I responded with, “My 63 year old mother.” That’s right, just Mama Buddha and I are down until next Tuesday, no doubt acting our age. I’m out of the kitchen until then, at least, but keep up with our adventures by following me on Instagram!