Happy Valentine’s Day! I don’t really celebrate this Hallmark holiday since I like to pretend that every day is Valentine’s Day with my husband (yeah right), but I wanted to make something special for the rest of you out there! I am absolutely obsessed with Pinterest and when I found a unique recipe for a South American cookie called Alfajores, I immediately pinned it on my “I Need to Make These!” board. I then did some research on this cookie and it’s origins so I could get to know it a little better before taking it out for a romantic dinner. What I learned is that everyone is in love with these flaky shortbread cookies sandwiched with the creamy caramel goodness of dulche de leche. So now it’s my turn to tell you all how good these are and that you MUST try them…very soon! To top it all off, I experimented with my own non-dairy dulce de leche, which was a lot of fun and led to two delicious recipes for you to try.

Alfajores Ingredients

makes around 30 sandwich cookies

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups chilled unsalted margarine, cut into pieces
1/2 cup water
sanding sugar or powdered sugar, for sprinkling

Dulce de Leche Ingredients

1 (13.5 oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt

I began with the dough, which needed to chill for a while in the fridge. So simple! In a food processor, I pulsed together the flour and sugar then added the margarine and pulsed until the mixture resembled coarse sand. I know, I know, it seems like a lot of margarine, but it’s for a special occasion so it’s okay, right?

With the machine running, I poured the water slowly and processed for around 20 seconds. When the dough was mostly combined, I placed half of it on plastic wrap, closed it tightly and pressed the dough with the heel of my hand until fully combined. I repeated this step with the remaining dough then refrigerated for at least 1 hour. You can even leave the dough in the fridge overnight if you want to get it ready the day before.

While the dough was setting up in the fridge, I made the delicious non-dairy dulce de leche. I whisked the coconut milk, sugar and salt over medium heat until the sugar dissolved. I increased the heat to medium-high and boil for around 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reduced to around 1 1/4 cups. I transferred to small container, cooled completely then covered and chilled.

What I realized at this point was that the dulce de leche was a bit loose and was better for a drizzle. If you want yours to be thicker, and you know that you do, just simmer the sauce at a lower temperature for a lot longer! This drizzle is great over cakes, pies and pretty much anything else you can think of. In this case, I added the dulce de leche sauce to whipped topping and whisked until I had an insanely delicious dulce de leche whipped cream to put on my cookies!

I figured I could try another non-dairy dulce de leche recipe to see if I could come up with something thicker without adding whipped topping. What came of my experimentation was something delicious but very messy! As my sister put it, “my microwave had a makeover!” I found a recipe for making dulce de leche in the microwave using sweetened condensed milk so I figured I would give it a shot using coconut milk. If you want to try this recipe, just know that you will be cleaning your microwave! I placed the coconut milk in a large glass bowl, microwaved for 2 minutes and whisked. I followed this process over and over until the milk began to curdle. Please be careful because the coconut milk will begin to spatter and bubble, especially while you whisk. After around 15 minutes of microwaving and whisking, I was left with beautiful creamy  dulce de leche with a hint of coconut flavor.

I removed the dough from the fridge, floured the surface of my amazing Fat Daddio’s Silicone Work Mat and rolled out one of the disks of dough to around 1/4 inch thick. I cut the cookies using my new Wilton Duo Hearts Cookie Cutter and placed them on a parchment lined cookie sheet. You can use any cookie cutter(s) you want! I sprinkled half the hearts with sanding sugar. If you don’t have sanding sugar, you can sift powdered sugar on half of the cookies after they bake and cool.

I baked the cookies at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown and puffed up. I rotated the cookie sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. I transferred to a wire rack to cool completely before filling with the dulce de leche.

I spread a heaping teaspoon of dulce de leche whipped cream on some of the cookies then topped with the sugar coated cookies. I spread some of the microwaved dulce de leche on the rest of the cookies. Gotta try both, right??

I actually preferred the dulce de leche whipped cream since there was no hint of coconut in the favor, but both were creamy and yummy. These cookies might look like sugar cookies but they are more like a shortbread, so soft and flaky. The cookies are not too sweet and balance out the intensity of the caramel flavor in the dulce de leche. Yum! You must try them!