Whole Wheat Cheese and Onion Empanadas and Dulce De Leche Alfajores

I’m struggling for words tonight. Brain cramps. That, and my slightly injured finger (thank you slip of the hand with a peeler–eew, I know) is discouraging me from typing too much.

Argentina is awesome. Honeymoon flashback!

cafetortoni

firstmate

caminito-604x453

donenriquelodge

Pictures are worth a thousand words, so I hear. So you’re welcome for that 5,000 word essay about our trip. Okay, okay, the words are coming a bit easier after looking at the photos. (I wish I could redo the whole trip with a better camera and my current enthusiasm for photography).

During our stay, we ate a couple steaks, pizzas and pastas, French cuisine, numerous empanadas, and various sweets. The empanadas were everywhere and easy and cheap. Cheap was important as we were (are always) on a budget. Wine, when consumed, was exclusively malbec. A light tea seemed quite common since supper was eaten so late. I fell in love with dulce de leche (sweet milk that is caramelized), which was served at breakfast and tea. Dulce de leche is used in lemon shortbread sandwich cookies called alfajores.

We were constantly on the lookout for these cookies, because my sister-in-law had made them for my travel-themed bridal shower. That bridal shower, and the other in Wisconsin (where I am originally from), were both so thoughtfully planned to fit my interests and personality. I’ve got good people in my life…

But alas, I must get back to the post at hand and my recent batch of alfajores.

First, the empanadas. I used a basic dough recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but used all whole wheat pastry flour. The crusts turned out deliciously. I really used to think that I hated (okay, disliked) baking in comparison to cooking, but between this crust and the cookies, I think I can get used to butter and flour on a daily basis. Yes, I went with the full on butter and didn’t bring Earth Balance into the mix.

I went with an easy cheese (sharp cheddar) and onion combination. I simply put raw chopped onions and shredded cheese on each disc and folded over. No recipe or extras involved there. I do think a stuffing with a bit of chive cream cheese would take it over the top. Maybe another time. I seriously see myself making all sorts of little empanadas post project time crunch.

Moving onto dessert.

Making alfajores involves two main steps: dulce de leche and the cookies. I was fretting a bit about where to get dulce de leche, or thinking about substituting some other type of caramel. Why I don’t google things before I start to worry is beyond me. Crisis averted. David Lebowitz came through for me (Let me just pretend that the oober-famous food blogger posted that solely for my benefit; I like to pretend he and Heidi Swanson are talking directly to me.)

Would you believe you only need one ingredient to make dulce de leche? I followed his steps.

Fill the outside pan with water, and cover s.c. milk with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Really easy. I think Jordan thought I had engaged in some sort of kitchen sorcery to have made dulce de leche at home. He asked that I make it daily. Ha. Riiiight. That’d be dangerous for the waistline.

For the cookies, I used a simple shortbread recipe:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 t vanilla

These turned out as well as I had hoped. And the first cookie instantly took me back to our travels.

I love that food has the ability to do that. Smell and taste are so underestimated when it comes to memory. We try so hard to remember what everything looks like. But yet it seems that smells and tastes are ingrained in our minds even without focusing on remembering them.

Happy week, readers. Don’t let Monday get you down. Bake something instead.

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