I suspect the most requested item at House Morell are 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 have been contemplating a bar version of the alfajores. Because dulce de leche is quite possibly my favorite food.
Well friends, I believe I have struck upon the perfect recipe.
To be honest, it’s an adaptation of the Gooey Caramel Butter Bars found in Jill O’Conner’s Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey cookbook. This little gem is among the stickiest cookbooks in my collection (though after a baking session, my kitchen often looks as though the Tasmanian Devil has whirled through, so it’s no surprise so many of my cookbooks are sticky.) In tinkering with Jill’s recipe, I swapped out her melted toffees for a generous dose of dulce de leche. And then dusted a generous bit of sea salt on top… because – yum!
The neat thing is that I had a really great excuse to make these treats. Some of my dear friends are part of an organization called Spark the Wave, which trains some of the nation’s best young service leaders. They are gearing up for “Wave Weeks” at Villanova and Georgetown University in July. These weeks are intensive 6-day programs of leadership development, community service, team building activities, and a whole lot of summer fun where the students learn to plan and execute better service projects. Last weekend, our friends hosted a Wave Week retreat for the organizing team of these events.
When I heard about the Wave retreat, I had an idea. In April, some of my favorite bloggers took part in a Baking for Good Tour hosted by King Arthur Flour. I absolutely loved the idea and the call to Bake for Good in your community throughout the year. As they point out on their website: “There are so many ways that you can Bake for Good! You can create a nutritious meal to fill undernourished bellies, or sell cookies to support a cause near and dear. Nothing says thank you quite like a plate of warm cookies—why not share with your local fire department, or your child’s favorite teacher? Baking for Good can even be as simple as baking for your friends and neighbors, just to make them smile.”
So, with Baking for Good in mind, I wanted to salute the inspired Wave Week team, and share some of my yummy baked goods. I sent over a group of four of my favorite bars: Raspberry-Cherry Crumble Bars, Malted Milk Bar Blondies, Barefoot Contessa’s Outrageous Brownies and these Alfajores Bars. A nice balance of fruity, chocolate and caramel. Reports from the front indicate that the Alfajores Bars disappeared first.
So here’s to Baking for Good, and all the best to the Wave Week team… so glad you enjoyed the bars!
Now, who can I target next in my Baking for Good effort?
- 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
- 1 16 ounce jar dulce de leche
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- 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.