the best alfajores

The Best Alfajores

Staying away from dulce de leche? I am not good at that. How about from The Best Alfajores? Impossible!

In South America, dulce de leche is the food of getting along. It’s the common ground for Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and all our neighbors. Despite the dispute for paternity over the product, if there is a pot around, we all enjoy it together.

Dulce de Leche!

Which brings us to Christine from Uruguay, Rolando from Argentina, and me, from Brazil. Over Dulce de Leche, we became friends. Pretty strong team to back up this story, don’t you think?

Christine was born and raised in Uruguay, where her family ran a bakery in Punta del Este. There, she met her husband Rolando, while he was working in the textile industry.

Cristina Goldstein

Cristina Goldstein

 

Uma eating Alfajores

Take a bite Uma!

The couple moved to New York in 2007 and after the birth of their daughter Uma, Christina began making treats from her homeland to reconnect with her birthplace and pass away her native culture to her daughter.

Typical story goes big, fast forward 10 years, and in 2016 they opened a manufactory in Buchanan, New York, a perfect place to set up shop.

“I am cooking the foods I grew up with”, said Christina who makes the best alfajoresI’ve ever tasted.

How about Dulce de Leche Bombons? Wanna take a bite? Nhac!

Dulce de Leche Bombons

As a loyal, royal, sweet-submissive, aficionada for the subject (and for Hamilton!), alfajores has always presented a certain degree of dissatisfaction. Not because of the ducle de leche. Oh no! That’s the easy part. Because of the cookie!

“Everyone expects alfajoresto be a crunchy cookie, like oreos. And the cookie by itself, is indeed, on the crunchy side when it is just baked. But the differential of the alfajores lies in the process of sandwiching two pieces of cornstarch cookie with a layer of dulce de lechein the middle, and then enrobing in dark or white chocolate. Once enrobed, the chocolate seals the moisture, and gives a soft texture to the cookie. This balance takes 2-3 days to develop. You can’t eat alfajoresthe day it’s made”, says Christina.

Plain AlfajoresLiving in the New York area, I have tried alfajoresin all shapes and forms, but nothing compares to this one. In Christina’s hands, the sandwich cookie is transformed, and enlightened through the process of enrobing. It’s worth the calories!

 

You can find Christina’s alfajores and other delicious dulce de leche products through her web site:

Christtine.com

You can also find her treats on her products on

Bel Ami Cafe NY– coffee shop, upper east side, 68thand Madison

Restaurant in Williamburg, Tabare

 

 

Dulce de Leche and Coconut Roulade

rocambole

Dulce de Leche is present in all of cuisines of Latin America. From Chile to Venezuela, Argentina to Brazil. In fact, there is an unofficial rivalry between who invented dulce de leche: Argentineans from the region of La Paila claim the glory, and we Brazilians, also fight for the title. It is true, especially to the state of Minas Gerais, in the heart of Brazil’s dairy country. As I am from Rio, I never paid that much attention. Perhaps, this kind of competition matters very little to most cooks—myself included—as it is what you can do with dulce de leche that matters most. Like this Roulade! Indulge!

Serves 6 to 8

For the Cake:

5 eggs, separated

Pinch salt

¾ cup (105g) flour, sifted

½ cup + 1 tablespoon (125g) sugar

 

To Soak the Cake:

1 cup coconut milk, heated and cooled (to soak the cake)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

For the Filling:

2 cups (600g) store bought dulce de letche

½ cup (40g) unsweetened grated coconut

 

For the Glaze:

½ cup heavy cream

5.3 oz (150g) (about ½ cup) dulce de leche

 

Equipment: 12X18X1 inch sheet cake pan greased with butter, lined with parchment paper and greased again (do not let the paper go up the sides of the pan). Have a clean kitchen towel and sugar handy.

 

  • Prepare the Cake: Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add a pinch of salt and start beating until the whites start to foam and rise. Gradually add the sugar and beat until they become a firm meringue reaching soft peaks, about 4 minutes.
  • In another bowl, lightly whisk the yolks together. Gently scoop one third of the meringue and fold with the yolks. Now scrape the lightened yolks onto the meringue, and fold everything together using a large rubber spatula. Mix in the flour, and fold carefully, rubbing the sides and the bottom center of the mold, making sure there are no pockets of flour. The cake will deflate a little—that’s normal, but it should still look fluffily.
  • Pour the cake batter onto the prepared sheet pan, and spread out evenly with an off set spatula. Bake in the oven until it looks very lightly golden brown, and uniformly puffed, about 12-16 minutes. (Attention: If you over bake, even by a few minutes, the cake will dry out and become un-rollable.)
  • Meanwhile, Prepare the Coconut Milk: In a small saucepan bring the coconut milk to a low boil then let it cool completely. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and let it rest 2 minutes inside the pan while you prepare the wet towel: wet a kitchen towel completely, twist, and remove excess water. Stretch on a clean counter. Invert the cake onto the towel, remove the pan, and carefully peel off the parchment paper. If the edges are slightly dry, trim it. Let it cool at room temperature.
  • Soak the Cake: Brush the cake with coconut milk.
  • Spread the Filling: In a bowl, mix together the dulce de leche with the coconut.
  • Using an off set spatula, spread the filling across the entire cake.
  • Roll the Cake: Using the towel to help you, gently lift and roll the cake, starting with the long side farthest from you and finish so that the seam is on the bottom. Trim the two outer sides to make a clean cut. Transfer to a rack.
  • Glaze the Cake: Put the dulce de leche in a bowl. In a medium saucepan heat the heavy cream; pour onto the dulce de leche and whisk well. Pour over the rolled cake and carefully transfer to a rectangular plate. Serve at room temperature.

rocambole

 

Step by Step Chicken-Stuffed Beef Roulade

Step by Step Chicken-Stuffed Beef Roulade

 

Chicken Stuffed-Beef Roulade

Chicken Stuffed-Beef Roulade

Meat stuffed with chicken, a specialty from Goias. Wait. What? At first, it seems like an odd combination but when you taste, you’ll love it! The roulade is slowly roasted and presents a spectrum of textures: crusty and flaky meat around the edges and moist ground chicken stuffing packed with aromatic flavors in the center, this roulade is succulent and rich.

Truth be told: this is not the easiest of dishes, and it needs to rest in the refrigerator for a day. Yet, it is my kind of dish. There is some work and technique involved, especially when it comes to butterflying and tying the meat. I must confess I have never mastered the butcher’s way of using twine, and the two endings of this meat log always suffer from my poor tying skills (I am working on it!). Even though I don’t make the most perfect embroidery, once roasted, it looks gorgeous and tastes sublime.

 

Serves 6 to 8

 

1 flank steak (around 1 ½ pounds)

3/4 pound ground chicken (mixed from white and dark)

2 scallions (white and green parts), finely chopped (about ¼ cup)

1 stalk celery, finely chopped (about ¼ cup)

Half red onion, chopped (about ½ cup)

Half yellow bell pepper, finely chopped (about ½ cup)

Half red bell pepper, finely chopped (about ½ cup)

1 small carrot, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)

4 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 chicken bouillon cube, grated into powder

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Using a boning knife or a very sharp paring knife, trim any excess fat and silver skin from the flank steak. Carefully butterfly the meat, working across the grain and trying not to tear it. Start through one of the long edges and slowly cut deeper into the meat. Keeping the meat flat and the knife blade horizontal at all times will help with the job. When you reach the center, stop and open the meat as if it was a book (If you know a good butcher, don’t be shy to ask him to do it for you). Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside while you prepare the filling.
  2. Place the ground chicken in a large bowl. Stir in the scallions, celery, red onion, bell peppers, carrot, garlic, parsley, one tablespoon of the olive oil, the soy sauce, and bouillon cube. Mix well. To check the seasoning, pinch off an egg-size piece and cook it in a hot skillet with a dash of oil. Season the rest of the filling with salt and pepper as necessary.
  3.  Place the ground meat mixture inside the opened flank steak, cut side up, and spread throughout the surface of the meat. Make sure to leave a 2-inch edge on all sides. The amount of stuffing may vary slightly, depending on the size of your flank steak.beef chicken roulade
  4. Carefully roll the flank steak making sure to fold some meat over the ends to avoid ground meat from escaping.chick beef roulade
  5. Tie the roulade with a string, making a knot in 5 to 6 places. Don’t worry if the ends are a little messy; as long as you tie it well, the dish will hold its shape.  Wrap the roulade in plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator for 1 day (or up to 2 days) so that the flavors have a chance to blend. Make sure to bring it to room temperature at least 30 minutes before proceeding.img_1509img_5523
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 225˚F.
  7. Warm the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium to high heat. Add the roulade and cook, rotating every 2 minutes until it forms a nice brown crust all over, about 8 minutes.
  8. Transfer to a cutting board and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
  9. Wrap the roulade in aluminum foil and seal the edges very tightly. Place seam side up pm a baking sheet on the center rack of the oven. Cook for about 2 hours, until you reach a 155˚F internal temperature. Save any juices that render and accumulate.
  10. Remove from the oven and let rest with the foil wrap closed, for about 15 minutes.
  11. Open the foil, pour any juices into a bowl, and place the meat onto a cutting board. Using a serrated knife cut ¾ -inch thick slices. Serve with the juices drizzled on top.
Asparagus with Shallot and Parsley Sauce

Asparagus with Shallot and Parsley Sauce

img_9080  

Simple recipe to take advantage of the last days of summer!

Treat asparagus like flowers, and keep them in a vase under water, covered with a loose plastic around them to protect the tips.

In this recipe I like to boil the asparagus, but you can also grill or roast them. You can serve this recipe either as an appetizer, or as a side dish.  And I always buy an extra bunch to add to my breakfast omelet the next day!

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound asparagus, about 1 bunch

3 tablespoons salt for boiling water

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 slice of bacon, finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons

2 small shallots, finely chopped, about 1/3 cup

1 cup chicken stock

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

 

  • Cut the woody bottom off the asparagus and peel it, leaving the flower part intact.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the salt and baking soda. Submerge the asparagus in the water and cook until they just become soft. Immediately transfer them to an ice bath and then let them cool completely. Remove from the ice bath and let them dry on paper towels.
  • In a medium sauté pan, add the olive oil and bacon and cook over medium heat, until lightly crispy, about 2 minutes.
  • Lower the heat and add the shallots, stirring occasionally, being careful not to brown them, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the chicken stock and reduce by half, about 5 minutes.
  • Lift the saucepan a few inches above the heat and add the cold pieces of butter. Shake the pan back and forth until the butter is melted and incorporated into the sauce. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the asparagus to the pan and reheat over very low heat, being careful not to boil the sauce (if you boil a sauce that contains butter, the sauce will break). Add the parsley.
  • Transfer the asparagus and sauce to a plate and serve with the Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
Cheese Empanada

Cheese Empanada

IMG_4544

 

Or as we say it in Portuguese: Empadinha de Queijo. It’s really a single crusted mini quiche called empada. You can play with the cheese. Be my guest.  Molds from my grandmother, God bless her.

 

Makes 36 Empadinhas

 For the Dough:

3 1/3 cups (495g) all-purpose flour, sifted

2 teaspoons salt

2 ½ sticks (20 tablespoons/ 275g) unsalted butter, lightly chilled, and cubed

2 yolks

3-4 tablespoons cold water

 

For the Filling:

1 lb cottage cheese, drained overnight in a colander

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

½ cup (125ml) whole milk

½ cup (125ml) heavy cream)

1 whole egg

3 tablespoons (26g) all-purpose flour

¼ cup (28g) tightly packed freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch of Cayenne pepper

Equipment:  36 one-ounce individual tartlet molds, about 2 inches in diameter

 

  • Make the dough: Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse about 20 times to finely mix in the butter. Add the yolks, and pulse again. Add the water and pulse until the dough just starts to come together. Place the dough onto a floured surface and gather into a ball, then shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (This can be done up to two days ahead.)
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator at least 20 minutes before working so that it becomes malleable. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough about ¼ to ½ inch thick (not too thin), and use a round cutter slightly larger than the empadinhas mold. Cut them close together to get as many as possible. Carefully lift each circle and fit the dough into the bottom and up the sides of the mold, leaving some extra dough above the edges. If the dough cracks or splits as you work, don’t worry—patch the cracks with scraps using a wet finger to “glue” them in place. Chill the crusts while preparing the filling. You will have scraps of dough left over.
  • Prepare the Filling: In a bowl, season the cheese (weather you are using Minas, cottage, or Ricotta) with the olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. In a blender, mix the milk, cream, egg, flour, and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. (Liquid filling can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.)
  • Assemble the Empadinhas: Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F. Remove the crusts from the refrigerator; spoon about one teaspoon of the cheese into each mold; carefully pour the filling into each mold leaving about ¼ inch edge. Depending on your empadinha molds, you might have just a little bit of dough left over. Bake the empadinhas until they are nicely golden brown, about 25 minutes, rotating at least once. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

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