The first time I ever tried an alfajor, a South American flaky, shortbread cookie-sandwich with dulce de leche filled in between, I was hooked. The buttery, rich texture of the cookies sandwiching the thick, gooey milk-based caramel in between was addictive. The cookies are usually covered in powdered sugar, so they also leave quite the mess behind, making you think about what you just consumed and how delicious it is. I had bookmarked a recipe that Serious Eats published for alfajores a while ago, but I finally got around to making them this weekend for the first time. I made my own cajeta, or a goat milk-based dulce de leche, and also used my last Tahitian vanilla bean, the pod and the seeds and all, for both the biscuit dough and the caramel. And even though it took nearly two hours to fully reduce the caramel to the right consistency, it was definitely worth it. It was the most complex caramel I’d ever tasted; given how good and grassy goat milk tastes, it’s so sad that we haven’t embraced it much as a culture here. It also doesn’t help that it’s quite expensive.
Our handyman friend, who grew up in the Dominican Republic, tried the cajeta alone and the alfajores, and he had a look of bliss on his face. “These taste like childhood,” he declared. “You know I only eat desserts you and my wife make, right?”
That’s how powerful food is. Taste is memory. Memory can be taste.