I opened Beatrix, a tiny bakery in North Melbourne, in 2011. My killer cake squad and I are dedicated to baking great cakes from good-for-you things. We are faithful to seasonal produce sourced from farmers markets, growers and hands-on producers. We are about doing what we do best with no frou-frou – but just the kind of cakes that taste wonderful.
The first recipe in this series is my adapted version of a South American cookie – the alfajor.
When I started visiting Casa Iberica, the Spanish/Latin American supermarket in Fitzroy, I ate many sweet treats, like pastel de nata and alfajores. The alfajores were two wafers filled with dulce de leche (thick caramel) with fine coconut coating the edges. I never truly fell in love with the cookie or wafer pastry part of the alfajores, nor was I confident in pronouncing their name! So one very early morning when making my favourite pecan shortbread recipe at Beatrix, I wondered what would nice thing could happen if I switched the pecans for almonds and sandwiched them with dulce de leche. That (super) nice thing is an Almondjaw.
(MAKES 16 BISCUITS – KEEP FOR TWO WEEKS IN THE FRIDGE OR 4 DAYS AT ROOM TEMPERATURE)
230g unsalted butter, diced and cool, not cold
80g icing sugar mixture
100g raw almonds with skin on, roasted to golden brown and cooled 300g plain flour
5g fine sea salt
3g baking powder – around ½ teaspoon
Demerara sugar for sprinkling
400g tin of sweetened condensed milk
For the Dulce de leche, boil one unopened 400g tin of sweetened condensed milk for three hours, vigilantly keeping it topped up with water to cover the tin. Handle with care and allow to cool slightly and mix in ½ teaspoon sea salt flakes. Use while still warm and supple.
For the biscuits, in a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until soft and white with a paddle on a medium speed. Scrape down the sides twice. This takes around five minutes.
Grind the nuts with about 50g of the total flour amount and set aside.
Mix the remaining flour with the salt and baking powder and then mix in the nut flour.
Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter, taking care not to overwork the dough but don’t leave any butter streaks as it will cause buttery fissures (not pretty but still delicious) when baked. Do this on low speed for around one minute.
Form dough into fat discs and allow to rest for fifteen minutes at room temperature (if it is hot in the kitchen, pop in the fridge briefly).
Roll out on a lightly dusted surface to around 3 mm thick. If rolling doughs without frustration is difficult, you can roll the dough between two sheets of baking paper, but do keep flouring so the dough moves as you roll.
Cut the cookies with a 7cm diameter fluted cutter. Place on a baking paper lined tray and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Bake at 150°C until deep golden all over – around 20 to 30 minutes.
Cool and sandwich with dulce de leches –either pipe with a large nozzle or spoon and spread with a teaspoon.