Tag Archives: Sweets
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Japanese Cheesecake

Hi everyone! Sorry i’ve been missing in action for a little while.  I’ve been cooking, but lately I haven’t really made anything quite blog worthy.  Not until this cheesecake at least.  For the sake of ‘keeping it real’ I am not going to lie.  This thing was such a mission to make.  It wasn’t hard at all, but there are a lot of steps and you’ll have lots of dirty bowls by the time you’re done. But please don’t let that deter you. Once you take the first bite,  you’ll realize it was totally worth the trouble.  This cheesecake is much lighter than it’s American cousin,  creamy and subtly sweet. The texture is almost like a souffle. When you pair it with fresh mango, it’s a masterpiece. I made this for mother’s day, and although I had a traumatic experience that day,(sliced my finger with a really sharp knife as I was cutting a bell pepper, bled like crazy, and fainted twice- I know what a sissy!) it had the same effect as when you get a lollipop at the Dr.’s office after a shot.  The good news is you won’t slice your finger since you don’t need any knives to make this!

Ingredients:

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese

4 tbsp. butter (2 oz.)

3 eggs (separated)

1 tbsp. sugar

1 ½ tbsp. cornstarch

½ cup milk

¼ cup sugar

 

Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Next begin separating the egg yolks from the whites and putting them into separate bowls. Put the bowl of egg whites into the freezer until the edges being to freeze. In a large mixing bowl, blend the cream cheese on high speed, until you have a nice creamy, soft texture, scraping the sides of the bowl to break up any lumps. Add the butter to a small saucepan to soften and slightly melt and add the butter to the cream cheese. Blend again for about 3 minutes on high speed. You want to have a fluffy airy mixture. Set this bowl aside.

 

Next add ¼ cup of sugar to the egg whites and beat until you have a soft meringue. Set aside.

 

Add the cornstarch, milk, and 1 tbsp. of sugar to the bowl with the egg yolks. Whisk everything well and place the bowl over a double boiler, stirring consistently until the mixture becomes very thick. Add this mixture to the cream cheese and combine well. You’ll want to scrape the sides of the bowl and the bottom to make sure you’ve incorporated everything well.

 

Now we’ll begin gently folding in the egg whites, about 1/3 of the mixture at a time.

 

Line your pan with parchment paper. You’ll want to make sure the parchment comes up about 1” above the pan. Pour the batter into your pan and place in a water bath. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 320°F and bake for another 25 minutes. Turn off the heat, but leave the cheesecake in the oven for another 40 minutes before removing. Cool the cheesecake and cover the pan with foil. Refrigerate overnight or at least for 4 hours. Slice and serve with some fresh mango.

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Baklava

Baklava is one of those dishes that always seemed so difficult to make.  And although it was a bit laborious, it definitely wasn’t difficult.  The assembly is much like you prepare a lasagna.  I wanted to try making this dish myself because I find that usually the baklava you buy in the store or at restaurants tends to be too sweet or taste too much like honey.  I totally omitted the honey for this recipe and I think that was a good call.  I can’t take credit for that, my husband was the one who told me to leave it out since he’s not a big fan of the taste of honey.  Anyhow, this dish is unleavened, which means it’s perfect for the Passover season, and incredibly delicious to boot.

Baklava:

40 sheets Filo dough (one box, thawed completely)

2 cups ground walnuts

2 cups ground pistachios

2 sticks butter (226 grams or 8 oz.)

1 can butter flavor cooking spray (you won’t use the whole can, but I don’t know the exact measurement of what I used)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp. cinnamon

 

*For the syrup:

3 cups water

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

 

The first thing you’ll do is pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the walnuts and pistachios into a food processor and pulse until you have a fine nut meal.  Transfer the nuts into a large mixing bowl an mix in the cinnamon and sugar set aside.   Next,  begin making the syrup by adding the water and sugar to a sauce pot and letting it simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the mixture has thickened a bit- it should have the viscosity of cough syrup. I know that sounds kind of gross, but I couldn’t think of anything else with that same thickness.

Side note: Most recipes for Baklava call for honey, but I personally find the honey to be too overpowering and sweet.  The brown sugar in the syrup gives it enough taste without being too strong.

Continuing on with the recipe…

Melt the butter in a bowl and using a pastry brush, brush the bottom of your baking pan with a little butter.  Next place one sheet of the filo dough.  Word of caution- you have to work fast with the filo dough otherwise it will dry out and the edges will begin to curl or crack.  Alternately , you can place a damp towel over the dough to combat this issue.  Also, make sure the dough is completely thawed, otherwise it will be really difficult to handle.  Spray the top of the filo dough with a little cooking spray and layer another sheet on top.  My method was to butter every fifth sheet and spray all of the other ones in between, otherwise this dish would use a TON of butter.  You’ll want to repeat the layering process until you have 20 sheets laid down in the bottom.  After you have the 20 sheets laid down, add half of the nut mixture on top of the filo dough and spread evenly. Lay another 5 sheets of filo dough, spraying and buttering the first and last sheet.  After you’ve laid 5 more sheets down, place the remaining nut mixture on top of the filo and finish by layering and buttering the last 15 sheets of filo over the mixture, making sure to use butter for the top layer.  Using a really really sharp knife, score the baklava into diamond shapes. Bake for one hour and remove from the oven to cool for about 15 minutes.  Spoon the syrup mixture over the top of the dessert, cover with foil and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours before serving.

*You might want to make a little extra syrup because I found that once everything had a chance to soak overnight, it was a little dry, so I made a second batch of the syrup, cooled it completely in the fridge and drizzled it over the top right before serving.  I guess you could also double the syrup and reserve half for the second day.  That would have been easier, but I had no idea that it would need more the next day.  Live and learn…


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Strawberry Cheesecake Tart

I don’t know why I’ve always been intimidated by the idea of making cheesecake.  It’s one of those things that seems so difficult to prepare, but alas, it was actually quite simple- at least this recipe was.  All you do is make a traditional crust, throw some ingredients into a food processor, bake and cool.  Nothing to it.  I made up the recipe as I went along and it turned great.  I decided to make this in a tart pan instead of a spring form pan, which yielded a somewhat thin cheesecake, but I kind of prefer it this way.

For the crust:

1  1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs ( I ran out of graham crackers and had to improvise.  You could use only graham crackers for this.)

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

2 sticks butter (226 grams or 8 oz.)

 

To create the crust, add the crackers and sugar to a food processor and blend until you have fine crumbs.  Add the crumbs to a mixing bowl and then stir in the melted butter, making sure to pour the butter evenly throughout the top of the crumbs.  Use a spatula to incorporate the butter into the crumbs well, making sure to dig into the bottom and fold upward.  Add the crumbs to your tart pan and begin forming the crust by pressing the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and up the sides.  Make sure you pack it well so that you have a firm crust.  Set aside until you’re ready to pour in the filling.

 

For the filling:

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup light sour cream

3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 egg, plus one yolk

 

Begin by pre-heating your oven to 350 degrees.  Add the cream cheese to your food processor and blend until it’s soft.  Remove the lid, scrape the sides and blend again.  This will help eliminate clumps of cream cheese.  Next add in the condensed milk sour cream, eggs and lemon juice and blend until you have an even and silky consistency.  You may have to remove the lid and scrape the sides and bottom of the food processor bowl a few times to break up any pieces of cream cheese.  Add the mixture into your tart pan and bake for 25 minutes.   Once the cheesecake is baked, remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes before  covering with foil and transferring to the fridge.  Allow the cheesecake to cool for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Assembly ingredients:

2 cups fresh strawberries

1/3 cup sour cream

 

When you’re ready to assemble the cheesecake, take it out of the fridge and remove the bottom of your tart pan.  Transfer the cheesecake to a cake tray or serving platter.  Next dollop the top of the cheesecake with the sour cream and smooth evenly over the top of the cheesecake.  Wash the strawberries and remove the tops.  Begin cutting the berries in half and begin decorating the top of the cheesecake with the berries.   I did a round design, alternating between the inside and outsides of the strawberries for a little contrast.   Slice and serve.


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Dark Chocolate Tart

I think I’ll just forgo the intro and dive straight into the recipe. Something this good should just speak for itself.

 

*This recipe is for an 11″ tart pan with a removable bottom. It was adapted from one of my favorite blogs: Dulce Delights.  Thanks so much Chica!

For the crust:

2 1/2 cup graham crackers crumbs (I just blended them in the food processor)

1/2 cup chocolate wafer crumbs

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 sticks melted butter

 

In a food processor, combine the graham crackers, chocolate wafers, cocoa powder and sugar.  Transfer to a mixing bowl and then gradually add the melted butter into the crumbs.  Make sure to evenly distribute the butter.  Next add the mixture into your tart pan and begin pressing down to form the crust- also pushing up against the sides.   Let the crust set in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

 

For the filling:

1 bag dark chocolate (11 oz)- I used the Ghiradelli  60% cocoa chips

1/2  bag of milk chocolate chips (5.5 oz)

3 eggs

2 cups heavy cream

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 tbsp. Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) or flavored liqueur of your choice

1/2 tsp. salt

 

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  While the oven heats, add the cream to a large microwave-safe bowl and bring to a light simmer, about 2 1/2 minutes.  Next add the chocolate into the bowl of hot cream and let it sit undisturbed for 3-4 minutes.  Using a whisk, begin vigorously stirring the cream and chocolate until you have a smooth and shiny consistency.  It should take about 1 1/2 minutes of violent whisking.  Let the mixture cool for about 15 minutes before adding in the eggs, vanilla extract and Frangelico. Whisk vigorously again, making sure you beat the eggs well into the mix.

Side note: Before I decided on the Frangelico, I did a little taste test. I added a tiny bit of the chocolate mixture into a little tasting bowl and then added a bit of different liqueurs.  I tried some Cointreau, some raspberry liqueur, some Disaronno, but I found that the Frangelico was mild enough to where it wouldn’t alter the taste too much and I wanted to stick to a chocolate flavor. The chocolate-orange,  chocolate-raspberry flavors worked really well though, so maybe next time I’ll go that route.

Ok, back to the tart.  The next thing you do is add this mixture into the tart pan.  Make sure to leave a little room because you’ll be adding the ganache top after the tart is cooked and cooled.  Gently transfer the tart pan into the top rack of the oven and cook undisturbed for 25 minutes.  When you take it out, the mixture won’t be completely solid.  It should wobble ever so slightly as you remove it from the oven but it will harden as it cools.  You don’t want to cook it past this point because then you’ll have a hard and dried out filling which is not what we’re trying to achieve here- we want a creamy and silky tart.  Allow the tart to cool on the the counter for about 15 minutes and then transfer to the fridge.  Allow the tart to set for about four hours or overnight before doing the next step.

 

For the Ganache top:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup milk chocolate chips

2 tbsp simple syrup.  ( I made this while the tart was cooking, just add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar to a pot and simmer until you have the consistency of honey)

1 tbsp. hot water

 

First add the cream to a bowl and heat in the microwave for about 1 minute.  Add in the chocolate and let it sit undisturbed for about 2 minutes.  Whisk well until you have combined the chocolate and cream.  Next add in the simple syrup and hot water and stir until you have a smooth and shiny consistency.   Drop the mixture quickly over the tart and begin to rotate the pan in order to spread the ganache evenly over the top of the tart.   Allow the tart to reach room temperature before serving.

 

I couldn’t help myself… just one more picture…

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Inverted Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are a different take on your standard chocolate chip cookie.  The cookie dough is chocolate and the chips are white chocolate.  They were super easy to make and are great when served warm out of the oven with an ice cold glass of milk.

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 package white chocolate chips

First preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Using a mixer, add the butter (at room temperature) and sugars to the bowl and begin beating until it is light and fluffy and gets about two shades paler, about 3 minutes. Next add in the eggs and vanilla extract and beat again for about 3 minutes.  In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients and begin adding the dry mixture to the wet mixture in about thirds, making sure to scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl to evenly incorporate everything in the dough.  Add in the white chocolate chips and with your spatula begin mixing to distribute the chocolate chips.   Line a cookie sheet with parchment, or butter and flour the sheet to prevent sticking.  Dollop one hefty tablespoon of cookie dough per cookie on the sheet and bake for about 8-11 minutes.  I bake mine on the lower side of the recommended time because I like gooey soft cookies that melt in your mouth. But if you prefer them more crispy, bake for the full 11 minutes. Remove from the cookie sheet once baked and allow the cookies to cool before serving.

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The Most Amazing Chocolate Cake!- Guest Post by Patyence

For those of you who don’t know who Patyence is, she Brandon’s step-mom, who is also the “Queen of Confection” in our family.  She made this cake last Saturday for our Delicioso viewing party.  Let me just say that this was the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had, hands down. It made watching my mug on the TV a little more bearable!! lol.  So without further ado, I present to you the recipe for this fabulous cake.  Thanks so much Pae for making this, everyone really enjoyed it!



Ingredients for the cake:

3 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 2/3 cup sugar

1 cup + 1 tbsp cocoa (I used Vahlrona because of higher quality)

1 cup + 1 tbsp water (room temp)

1 cup + 1 tbsp canola oil

5 large eggs

3/4 cup water (room temp)

1 tsp vanilla

bar of white chocolate (for garnish-optional)

bar of bittersweet chocolate (for garnish-optional)

Frosting #1

1 pound powdered sugar

3/4 cup cocoa

2-3 tbsp grand Marnier (you can use any flavored liqueur)

1 1/2 cup butter (room temp.)

Frosting #2

1 pound powder sugar

1 8-oz cream cheese

2 sticks butter (room temp)

1 to 2 tsp. vanilla

Frosting #3

combine leftover frosting #1 with #2

Cake:

Preheat oven to 350.

In large bowl, sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and cocoa. Add 1 cup and 1 tbsp water and oil. Mix until combined (about 1 minute).

Add eggs, 3/4 cup water and vanilla. Mix until it all comes together (about 2 to 3 mins. by mixer).

Pour into 11×14 rectangular pan and bake for 25-35 mins. This produces quite a bit of batter.

Cool cake on rack and cut in half to begin frosting cake.

Frosting #1:

Place butter in bowl and begin to whip. Sift cocoa powder and powder sugar together and begin to add to bowl (about half of the mixture). Add the flavoring and place the remaining sugar/cocoa ingredients in bowl. Let frosting mix on medium speed until right spreading consistency. You can add more flavoring if you like if the mixture is still too stiff. The key is to mix the frosting on slow to medium speed for a long period of time (about 6 to 8 mins).

Frosting #2:

Place all contents in bowl and beat on medium speed until you get a spreadable consistency. You can add more liquid if it is too dry. If the mixture is too sweet, you can add another 1/2 stick of butter.

Assembly:

After your cake is split in two, you place the cream cheese frosting first (save some for later) and then add the chocolate frosting on top creating 2 beautiful layers (save some of the chocolate frosting as well). Place top layer of cake and frost the entire cake. Use Frosting #3 to decorate cake (and to have leftovers for those wanting extra frosting) and garnish cake with white chocolate curls and chocolate shavings.

Enjoy!!

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White Chocolate Cherry Cookies


These cookies are perfect for the cherry lovers.  I love anything with cherries.  But what I don’t love is the commercial maraschino cherry that is loaded with artificial coloring.  To my surprise I found that there are natural maraschino cherries that taste just like the real thing, without all of the added colorings and dyes.  That is what I used for this recipe.  If you cannot find these in your area, try substituting the with dry cherries, and instead of using the maraschino juice, just use regular cherry juice in it’s place.   Also, I like these cookies to be soft and gooey so I bake them on the lower side of the recommended baking time.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

1 1/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 cup natural maraschino cherries (pictured above)

1/2 cup maraschino cherry juice (from the bottle)

2  bags  white chocolate chips (12 oz. packages)

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Cream the butter with a mixer until it’s light and fluffy. Next add the sugar and continue to beat until the mixture changes to a lighter shade of yellow, about 2-3 minutes. Begin removing the stems off the cherries and roughly chop them, making sure to save the juice they’re packed in.  Next add the eggs, vanilla extract and cherry juice to the butter and sugar bowl and blend well.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients, mixing well.  Add the dry ingredients in thirds to the wet mixture making sure to scape way at the bottom of the bowl- I sometimes forget this part!   Now add in the cherries and chocolate chips and combine well, making sure you have cherries and chocolate evenly throughout the dough.  Scoop the mixture with a spoon and drop onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Bake for 9-12 minutes and cool for about 5 minutes before transferring to a plate.

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Taro Ice Cream

A wonderful phenomenon has started taking place in my neck of the woods.  Lately all of these little frozen yogurt shops have started springing up everywhere.   Anyone who knows me well will attest that I am a total frozen yogurt junkie.  I have two favorite snacks: fro-yo and popcorn.  But not at the same time, and definitely not microwave popcorn.  That doesn’t even count in my opinion, but I digress.

So as I mentioned, there have been several fro-yo places that have opened close to my house/work.  My favorite is called “Yumilicious” – and I hate to sound redundant, but it really is so very yummy.  They have like a billion flavors and you can serve yourself which is nice because you can mix and match all you want. They also have a huge topping bar, but I am a bit of a purist when it comes to ice cream and frozen yogurt; I like it plain.

The yogurt shop is owned by an Asian man and they always have the Taro flavor.  Purple taro to be exact.  Taro is an root vegetable that  is commonly eaten in the Caribbean and in Asia.  To us Cubans, it’s  known as malanga and it’s usually white instead of purple . The flavor is the same as the purple one which I used for this recipe.

 

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups taro root, peeled and cut into cubes

1 1/2 cup cream

3 cups whole  milk

1 cup plain yogurt

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

In a deep sauce pan, combine the cream, milk and taro  and bring to a boil.  Once the milk begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium and let the taro root cook in the milk until it is tender.   Strain the milk and cream through a fine meshed sieve into another pot.  Taro is extremely starchy and slightly sticky so a non-stick pan or pot would be best for this next step.  Add the Taro infused milk and cream to your non-stick pot and add the sugar and salt. Cook on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Lastly, add the yogurt and combine well.   Chill in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight before churning.  I just added the mixture to my ice-cream machine and followed the manufacturer’s instructions.

Side note: This ice-cream turned out really well but nothing like the yogurt  I was trying to recreate.  I have a theory about this though.  I think the frozen yogurt has “taro flavoring” not actual taro.  Sort of like how artificial grape flavor tastes nothing like real grapes.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Taro frozen yogurt, but it was really different tasting than my version.

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Chocolate Toffee Bars…

These bars are perfect for the lazy baker like me. Only a few ingredients, and just a little elbow grease and voila… you will have a bar perfect for a party, potluck, or any occasion.  I’d cut these into small pieces because they’re really rich.  A few bites is all you really need.

Ingredients for the crust:

3 cups flour

2 sticks butter

1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/2 tsp salt

First pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Next  cut a piece of parchment paper and line the bottom of a 13×9 pan, spraying gently with non-stick spray – I didn’t do this part and it was a little difficult to get the pieces out later. Cut the butter into squares and set aside.  Next add the flour, sugar, and salt to a food processor and pulse just to blend the ingredients well.  Next add the butter in three batches, pulsing each time until you have a  crumbly consistency.  It’s ok to have little specks of butter throughout; this will yield a crispy crust perfect for the other layers. Bake for 25 minutes and remove from the oven.

Next add one to two bags of semisweet chocolate chips (depending on how chocolaty you want it) evenly over the hot crust and leave it untouched for 10 minutes.  Take a cake spatula and spread the chocolate chips over the crust (actually, it’s more like smear the chocolate as it’s now melted).  Make sure to get a nice even layer over the crust and set aside… now moving on to the toffee.

For the toffee topping:

2 sticks butter

1 cup dark brown sugar

1/3 cup cream

1/2 tsp. salt

In a medium sauce pan, add the butter and allow it to melt.  Next add the brown sugar and salt and bring up the heat to medium high.  Begin stirring once the sugar begins to gently bubble and then add the cream. Bring the heat to med-low so that it doesn’t burn.  Allow it to cook until you have more of a caramel consistency, stirring continuously.   Pour the hot toffee over the chocolate and spread evenly with the cake spatula.

Chop about 1 cup of pecans or your favorite nut and sprinkle over the top of the bars.  Allow them to set in the fridge for about 30 minutes before cutting.

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Alfajores

Alfajores are the most delicious little cookies.  They’re two subtly sweet cookies which have dulce de leche in between and then topped with powdered sugar.  If you’ve never had an alfajor, you must try them- you won’t regret it, or maybe you will after cookie #9- lol.  My personal preference is to make a thin cookie so that you have a nice crunch when you bite into them, coupled with the smooth texture of the dulce de leche… bliss, total and utter bliss.   So here’s my recipe:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup sugar

1 cup butter

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups flour

1 cup cornstarch

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 can condensed milk

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar together on high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy and has turned about two shades paler.  Next crack in the the eggs, add the vanilla, and blend well for about 2 minutes on high speed. Once blended well, add the milk and blend once again.  In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt, cornstarch and baking powder and then add to the wet mixture in thirds, blending evenly each time.  Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl every now and again. You should have a semi firm dough.  Sprinkle a little flour onto your work surface and begin gently kneading the dough, adding more flour as needed to prevent it from sticking.  Cut a piece about the size of your palm and begin gently rolling out the dough.  I like the alfajores to have really thin cookies so I rolled the dough out quite a bit to achieve this. Using cookie cutter, begin cutting your shapes. I put a silicone mat on my cookie sheet and then transferred the cut-out shapes to the sheet.  Put the pan in the oven and let the cookies bake for about 10-12 minutes. Once baked, remove the cookies from the tray and let them cool completley.

For the dulce de leche- all you’ll have to do is cook the can of condensed milk in water.  I added water to my crock pot (about 6 cups) and put the can into the water. Just let it cook on the high setting for about 3 hours.  You could also do the same thing in a pressure cooker for about one hour.  Just a warning though, let the can cool a bit before opening it, otherwise the heat will expel the contents out like a volcano and you’ll have dulce de leche everywhere.  I learned the hard way!

To assemble, add a little dollop of dulce de leche on one side of the cookie and top it with another.  Sprinkle the top of the cookies with powdered sugar.

P.S.  There is no easy way to eat this… they’re messy and gooey and you’ll have stuff all over your hands, but it’s so worth it!

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