I played JV soccer until the end of my sophomore year of high school when I decided to focus on playing violin instead because I was way better at it. I also stopped playing because I HATED running and in order to try out for varsity soccer in junior year, I’d have had to run 2 miles on the track without stopping in 18 minutes. I said, “HELL no,” and proceeded to spend the rest of my high school years as a proud member of the orchestra, which I loved.
From that point until about a year and a half ago, I didn’t run at all, but one day last year I woke up and decided I wanted to start running as a way to exercise more and to spend more time outdoors. I started sloooow. I remember running from 155th St. and Saint Nicholas Ave down Riverside Drive to 122nd St near Grant’s Tomb and after that distance, about a mile and a half, I was pissed, sweaty, angry, and totally bummed at how little stamina I had. Slowly, I began running farther and farther, and now, a year and a half later, I run the full Central Park loop without thinking twice.
A few days ago, after happily running the loop one morning, and after itching for the past several months to run more competitively, I knew it was time to go one step further so I signed up for a half marathon. It’ll take place the first weekend of May on Long Island. My first thought as I clicked “submit” and paid my fee was, “Woo hoo! I’m going to kick some butt!” and now I’m sort of scared, wondering why I’d do such a thing, and trying to figure out how I’m going to train properly while working full time, rehearsing for an opera, blogging, and having a life. We’ll make it happen.
Training for this half is going to be a step out of my running and life comfort zone, for sure, but I’m ready to work towards this new goal, which I never thought I’d have in a million years.
You know what else I’ve been doing these days besides signing up for this race? I’ve been making dulce de leche. I found the method for making it here and have been obsessed over how easy, cheap, and ridiculously amazing it is to turn a can of sweetened condensed milk into dulce de leche. It’s SO good! And practically effortless! This dulce de leche is perfect plopped into a cup of coffee, smeared onto an apple or just eaten right off a spoon (my preferred method of consumption), but after searching for desserts to make with it, I came up with the perfect solution: Alfajores!
Alfajores, cookies which you’re likely to find if you travel to Argentina or Peru, are essentially simple butter and sugar cookie sandwiches filled with dulce de leche. They may seem like cute, managable cookies as they sit on a platter looking clean cut and with a bit of confectioners’ sugar on top, but in reality they’re overwhelmingly sweet and creamy sandwich cookies that dance in your mouth and cause your taste buds to immediately want to reach for another once you’ve finished one. The outer cookies, which seem to be non-entities compared to the dulce de leche, are actually sturdy, flaky, buttery discs that yield perfectly to the filling. They are really, really good. Post run snack, anyone? Juuust kidding
I’ll keep you posted on the status of my new running adventure in addition to all my cooking ones. I’m a little scared at this point, but I have a few months to train, and even though I don’t know how the whole thing is going to turn out, I do know that I’m motivated by the challenge, and will leave the rest to training and my competitive personality. I know it’s in there somewhere.
One Year Ago: Restaurants | Po
Yield: 3 dozen cookies
Prep Time: 4 hours, 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk*
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)
*This will be used to make the dulce de leche. Making your own will take a few extra hours so if you'd rather buy store-bought dulce de leche to save time, definitely go for it. If you do this, skip step one, below.
1. Several hours (or the day before) you plan on making the cookies, make the dulce de leche. Completely submerge your can of sweetened condensed milk (the entire can, unopened!) in a pot of water on the stove over medium heat. Cover, bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat and allow the can to simmer in the water for 3 hours. Check several times throughout the process to make sure the can is always completely covered with water or else you run the risk of having it explode. Once the can has simmered for 3 hours, take it off the heat, out of the water, and let it cool for 20 minutes. Don't be tempted, as I was, to open the can immediately or else it will explode all over the place.
2. Once you're ready to make the cookies, line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set them aside.
3. Sift the flour, corn starch, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set it aside.
3. Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg, beat until combined, and then add the egg yolk, mixing until combined. Add the vanilla extract, beat well, and then add the flour mixture in two or three batches, mixing after each addition just until combined.
4. Turn the dough out onto a flat surface and, using your hands, form it into a ball. Cover it with two layers of plastic wrap, press it down to form a disk, and refrigerate for one hour.
5. After an hour, remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and set it on a floured surface. Roll it with a rolling pin until it's about 1/4 inch thick and then cut out circles or whatever shape you want using a cookie cutter. Place the cookie dough shapes onto your lined cookie sheet and refrigerate the sheets for 15-20 minutes.
6. While the cookie dough sheets are in the refrigerator, pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
7. Remove the sheets from the refrigerator after 15-20 minutes and the put them in the preheated oven to bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cookies are firm and they become very slightly golden in color on the bottom.
8. Once the cookies are finished, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
9. To assemble the sandwiches, take a spoonful of the dulce de leche and place it on the bottom of one cookie. Top the cookie with another cookie, bottom side touching the dulce de leche. Do this until you've run out of cookies and then sprinkle the top of your finished cookies with confectioners' sugar.
From Sweet Life Bake