2004 winner: A South American favorite becomes a holiday favorite.
Makes about 5 dozen sandwich cookies.
Taste Tip: This dough must be prepared in advance. The large amount of cornstarch is correct. Dulce de leche (also called cajeta and manjar) is a thick caramel made from sweetened condensed milk. It can be purchased in the international foods aisles of many supermarkets; one brand name is La Lechera. Unsweetened, desiccated (dried) flaked coconut can be purchased at most natural foods co-ops. This is a traditional (pronounced al-fa-HOR-es) in the contestant’s native Uruguay and found all over South America.
½ cup flour, plus extra for rolling dough
1¼ cups cornstarch (see Taste Tip)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 egg yolk
Freshly grated zest of ½ lemon
1 (13.4-ounce) can dulce de leche (see Taste Tip)
1½ cups coconut flakes, preferably unsweetened and desiccated (see Taste Tip)
To prepare dough:
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cornstarch and baking powder, and reserve.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and egg yolk and beat until thoroughly combined. Add lemon zest and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
To prepare cookies:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface using a floured rolling pin, roll out dough to 3/16-inch thickness. Using a cookie cutter, cut dough in rounds of desired size (between 1 and 2 inches) and place cookies 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough, gathering up scraps, re-rolling and cutting until all dough is used. Bake 11 to 12 minutes, making sure cookies do not brown. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. (Cookies may be stored up to a week in an airtight container until ready to assemble).
To assemble cookies:
Spread ½ teaspoon dulce de leche (more for larger cookies) into center of bottom of a cookie. Top with another cookie, bottom side up, as if making a sandwich. Spread a very thin layer of dulce de leche onto sandwich edge, and roll edge in coconut flakes. Repeat until all cookies form sandwiches.
2004 Winner: Graciela Cuadrado-Vielguth of Minneapolis, Minnesota