When I was 11 years old, I traveled to Brazil during summer break to visit my grandparents.
My family and I hiked past waterfalls in Iguacu National Park and rode on horseback through a tropical wetland teeming with wildlife. But one of my fondest memories involved something far less exotic: a package of doce de leite sandwich cookies purchased from a nondescript supermarket near my grandparents’ apartment in Sao Paulo. Doce de leite, similar to the Spanish dulce de leche, is Portuguese for sweetened milk that has been cooked until golden brown and thickened. The combination of crumbly cookies and condensed milk filling was so addictive that I devoured half the cookies as I exited the supermarket. In the years since, doce de leite has become a recurring theme in my kitchen experiments, appearing as layers in cheesecake and as filling for thumbprint cookies. I recently attempted to recreate the Brazilian sandwich cookies that inspired it all – with a twist. To balance the sweetness of the condensed milk, I sandwiched the doce de leite between dark chocolate chunk shortbread cookies with a generous amount of sea salt.
Note: This is one of my favorite shortbread recipes. It’s flaky, light, and not too sweet. I adapted it from a recipe for jeera biscuits, a South Asian cookie packed with cumin seeds, substituting dark chocolate chunks for cumin.
1 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft.
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 oz dark chocolate chunks (roughly ½ cup)
Dulce de Leche
1 can condensed milk
Preparing the Doce de Leite
Note: There are several ways to prepare doce de leite. The traditional method involves cooking milk and sugar in a pan, stirring continuously so that the mixture doesn’t burn. For the sake of convenience, I prefer to boil a can of condensed milk in water. It’s still a lengthy process – it can take hours before the condensed milk thickens and turns the golden brown color of caramel – but at least it doesn’t involve continual stirring. While the condensed milk is simmering, you can begin preparing the cookies.
1)Using a can opener, open a small hole in the top of the can of condensed milk to allow steam to escape as the can boils.
2) Place a can of condensed milk in a small to medium sized pot. Fill the pot with water until it nearly reaches the top of the can; do not submerge the can.
3) Cover the pot with a lid and bring water to a boil. Lower to medium heat, and simmer for 2-4 hours until mixture becomes thick, fudge-like, and golden brown.
Preparing the Cookies
- Roll out onto a flat surface until about ⅛ of an inch thick (you may need to refrigerate the dough for a few minutes) and cut out cookies using a round cookie cutter (or whichever shape you prefer.)
- Stir in salt and then gently mix in flour until just combined.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar.
- Stir in chocolate chunks.
- Bake cookies for 10-15 minutes, until firm and golden. Set aside to cool.
1). Spread a spoonful of doce de leite on a shortbread cookie. (Doce de leite is extremely sweet, so a little bit goes a long a way.)
2) Use a second cookie to create a sandwich. Repeat with remaining cookies.
Liana’s Kitchen is a new column by Astoria-based chef and foodie Liana Grey. Stay tuned for more of her fabulous recipes!