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Alfajores

Makes 24 cookies

Butter (for the sheet)
1 can (about 14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 cups flour, or more if necessary
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for sifting (optional)
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons cognac, brandy, rum, or milk
Extra flour (for rolling)
1 cup finely grated coconut (optional)

1. Set the oven at 425 degrees. Have on hand an 8-inch pie plate, a roasting pan larger than the pie plate, a baking sheet, and a 1 1/2-inch plain round cutter. Butter the sheet and line with parchment paper.

2. Pour the condensed milk into the pie plate. Cover with foil and place in the roasting pan. Pour hot water around the pie plate. Bake for 1 hour or until milk is thick and caramel-colored. Remove from roasting pan, take off foil, and cool. Refrigerate until cold.

3. In a bowl, sift 2 cups flour, the baking powder, and salt.

4. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at medium speed until smooth. Beat in the egg yolks, lemon rind, and cognac.

5. With the mixer set on its lowest speed, beat the flour mixture into the batter. The dough should be soft but not runny. Add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

6. Set the oven at 350 degrees.

7. On a lightly floured counter, roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Stamp out rounds with the cutter and set them on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until the cookies are set; they should not color at all. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.

8. Spread the flat side of 1 cookie with the thickened condensed milk (dulce de leche). Press another cookie, flat sides facing, on the first one. Spread dulce de leche around the sides of the cookie and roll in grated coconut or sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Repeat with the remaining cookies and dulce de leche. Store in a tight container in the refrigerator for up to several days. Adapted from "The South American Table"

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