I know that I'm a lucky girl. I have a great life in many ways, but what truly makes me lucky is Hubband. I'm blessed to have found someone who is as adventurous and unafraid of food as I am, and who is so supportive of all of my endeavors. He is exceedingly proud of this little blog, and loves to direct people's attention to it, including his coworkers. They, in turn, have been kind enough not only to read it, but to leave very sweet and encouraging comments for me.
Back in August, before we left for our trip, I decided it was time to send them a little thank-you in the form of baked goods. Being the over-analyzer that I am, I had trouble deciding what to make. It had to be easy to transport, both in the car and through the city as Hubband went from parking garage to office, nothing so incredibly fragrant that the whole office smelled of it, interesting but not wacky, etc. Eventually, I decided on cookies. Specifically, pecan shortbread cookies sandwiched with dulce de leche. It just sounded like something that would be tasty with morning coffee.
Although I had made the cookies before, I'd never made (or eaten) dulce de leche. It's really just sweetened condensed milk, cooked until the sugars caramelize, and is really very easy. You can do it on the stovetop or in the microwave, and all it takes is patience.
The cookies turned out well and Hubband's coworkers seemed to like them, so I'm happy.
Thank you again for all of your comments and support!
adapted from Ina Garten
This recipe is simple and very good. I've toyed with the idea of replacing a little of the granulated sugar with light brown sugar to deepen the flavor, but I haven't tried it yet. Let me know the results if you do! Try sprinkling turbinado or raw sugar crystals on the dough before baking for an added sweet crunch.
3 sticks of butter, at room temperature
1 C granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
3 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 C pecans, chopped into small pieces
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together butter and sugar until they are just combined and crumbly. Do not cream them together, as this will ruin the texture. Add in the vanilla and almond extracts. Sift together the flour and salt and add them, along with the pecans, to the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed until the dough just starts to come together. Dump out the dough onto a floured surface and shape it carefully into a flat disk. It will be a little crumbly at first, but don't worry about it. Just work it as little as possible. Wrap the disk in plastic and chill for 30 minutes. While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 350F. After the dough has chilled, roll it out between two sheets of plastic, or inside a large zip-top bag, to 1/2" thick. Remove the top layer of plastic, or cut down the seams of the zip-top bag and fold back the top, and cut the dough into whatever shapes you'd like. Place the cookies carefully onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 20-25 minutes, or until the edges just begin to brown.
Dulce de Leche
1 (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
Pour the milk into the top bowl of a double boiler. Add water to the lower pot and bring to a boil, then place the bowl on top. Cook over low heat, stirring every now and again, for about 45-55 minutes, or until the milk thickens and becomes light caramel in color. Whisk until smooth.
Alternately, pour the milk into a microwave-safe container and cook on 50% power for about 4 minutes, stirring halfway through. Cook for 10-12 minutes more on 30% power, whisking every few minutes, or until thick and light caramel-colored. Do not walk away from the microwave, as the milk will sometimes begin to bubble up, and you don't want a Mt. Vesuvius situation with boiling hot milk and sugar.