Welcome to round two of the Bourbon and Brown Sugar blog.
This spring, my first blog was hacked. Twice in a week. I blame the Russians. (That would be a low-confidence assessment based on circumstantial evidence, but it's a good story.)
While I was able to recover much of the content of that blog, it was a complete coding disaster, and I lost my entire e-mail subscription list (among other things). At the time, I was so discouraged that I set aside the endeavor, unsure if I would return to it.
Fast forward to two weekends ago. My family and friends gathered from all over the country to toast my half-century mark. (Please don't judge if you overhear me say "49 and holding," I'm still processing this milestone.)
I had requested a small, low-key, at-home gathering involving cocktails and tacos and cupcakes, but it morphed into a wonderful weekend long eat-a-thon that included trays of fresh baked scones, Ethiopian cuisine during a food tour of DC's U Street neighborhood, and a gorgeous paella in the back garden. During the various feasts, I was struck by how many times our chats circled back to shared recipes, often pulled from Bourbon and Brown Sugar.
I took this as a sign that I should dive into re-creating Bourbon and Brown Sugar. OK, that and the incessant encouragement (ahem, badgering?) from my mother and a few close friends. I've switched to a platform that is less susceptible to hacking (she said hopefully.) Seems an excellent use of my summer vacation. Truthfully, I missed the creativity of the blogging process. To my surprise, readers actually missed it too. I didn't fully realize how much I was connecting with people (not just my mother) through my food and writing.
Especially these Salted Alfajores Bars.
Once upon a time, the most requested item at House Morell were my Tiny Alfajores. These itty bitty shortbread cookies filled with dulce de leche are addictive and wonderful. But, they take a good bit of time to make. Since I am a girl who always seems pressed for time, I created a bar version. You see, dulce de leche is quite possibly my favorite food.
Well friends, I believe I have struck upon the perfect recipe.
We start with a layer of sturdy butter shortbread, slather it with a rather generous layer of dulce de leche, then top it with another layer of crumbled shortbread, Then we channel our inner Tinkerbell and dust the top with of sea salt. The salty pop to the combo of the rich butter crusts and the oozing caramel of the dulce de leche might as well be fairy dust. It's that good.
This recipe has become my signature cookie bar. I've arrived with trays of Alfajores Bars to potlucks and book clubs and teacher appreciation events for years. When the blog was hacked, the plea for this recipe was the most common request in my email inbox (I hope the Russians enjoyed them). It seems a good place to begin the new chapter of Bourbon and Brown Sugar.
Thanks for joining me for chapter two of the adventure!
Salted Alfajores Bars
- 4 sticks (1 pound) salted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- One 16-ounce jar dulce de leche
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the butter and sugars, and beat until creamy. Add the vanilla, and mix until combined. Add the flour into the butter mixture and mix on low speed until a smooth, soft dough forms.
- Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper. Press about half of the dough evenly into the pan to form a bottom crust. Place the remaining dough aside in the refrigerator to chill.
- Bake the bottom crust until firm and the edges are a pale golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.
- When the bottom crust is finished, let it rest for about five minutes. Microwave the dulce de leche for about 30 seconds so that it softens a bit and is easy to spread. Spoon the dulce de leche onto the bottom crust, and spread it out evenly. Remove the remaining chilled dough from the refrigerator and crumble it evenly over the dulce de leche layer. Sprinkle the sea salt evenly over the topping. Return the pan to the oven and bake it until the filling is bubbly and the crumbled shortbread topping is firm and lightly golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let it cool completely.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the bars into squares.