Have you ever had a craving for a cookie but not enough free time or desire to spend hours in the kitchen making it? That’s how I feel about alfajores. I love them – the buttery shortbread that melts in your mouth and the sweet, caramely dulce de leche in the middle are the perfect pair.
But when I’m feeling lazy or pressed for time, there’s no way I’m going to stand in the kitchen for hours making shortbread cookies from scratch, rolling out dough and messing with cookie cutters and parchment paper. And on top of that, sandwiching together dozens of cookies.
As much as I love to cook, there are times that making things from scratch just doesn’t mesh with my busy schedule. And I don’t typically keep cans of dulce de leche in my cupboard, but I do keep sweetened condensed milk to drizzle over strawberries or in case my dad drops by for dinner so I can make his favorite dessert, arroz con leche. It’s a staple in any Latin pantry.
I learned this awesome trick for making dulce de leche in the slow cooker from my good friend Marta over at My Big Fat Cuban Family. If you try it, please give her some comment love on her site — I think she’s a total genius for coming up with the idea for slow-cooker dulce de leche! Without it, I’d never be able to make this lazy man’s version of one of my favorite traditional Latin cookies, alfajores.
- One box of store-bought shortbread cookies (as thin as possible)
- One can of sweetened condensed milk (sometimes called lechera)
- A few tablespoons of finely shredded coconut (optional)
- 1 tablespoon of confectioner’s sugar, sifted over the cookies (optional, for dressing up the top of the cookie if you don’t roll it in the coconut)
- Slow cooker (I use a Kenmore 7-qt. slow cooker, but any size will do)
Remove the label from the can of sweetened condensed milk and discard. Place the can in the crock of the slow cooker and fill it with water until the can is completely submerged with water covering the top of the can. Set your slow cooker on high for 6 hours.
At the end of 6 hours, turn the slow cooker off. If you’re in a hurry, you can immediately remove the can from the crock using tongs and submerge it in a bowl of room temperature water. When the can is cool to the touch, you can open it with a can opener. Another way I like to do it when I have a little more time is to turn off the slow cooker and let the water come to room temperature before removing the lid and the can from the water.
Once you open the can, you’ll see that the silky sweetened condensed milk has turned into a beautiful brown dulce de leche. The consistency will be a little thicker, which makes it perfect for sandwiching with shortbread cookies because it won’t be runny.
Place a generous dollop of dulce de leche in the middle of one cookie and press another cookie on top. Make sure not to overfill them or the dulce de leche will ooze out the sides and make a mess. Ideally, the dulce de leche should just peek out. If you like, roll the edges of the cookie through finely shredded coconut which will stick to the dulce de leche.
You can store any leftover dulce de leche in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to six weeks. If you want to get creative, you can even package up the dulce de leche and give it away as a gift. My friend Marta made some adorable labels and stickers to dress up the packaging for Christmas gifts over on the Tiki Tiki Blog.
And if you have the patience and time to make alfajores from scratch, I love this recipe by Chef Uchi Davidzon for mini cornstarch alfajores over at Spanglish Baby. Buen provecho!