gluten free alfajore pops for valentine's day, dulce de leche in my pressure cooker, and a whole lot of time

posted on: Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Making alfajore pops took me 11 hours from start to finish. Ridiculous isn't it? On Sunday we had a great lesson in Relief Society about appreciating our time. Andrea who gave the lesson, is a mother, a wife, and a really hard worker. She's the designer behind Down East and often travels to China, Indonesia, Bolivia and around the US because of her work obligations. Yet, when Andrea is around and I get to talk to her and observe her with her family I can see that she lives by the quote that she shared in her lesson.

"Strength comes not from the frantic activity but from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light. It comes from placing our attention and efforts on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It comes from paying attention to the divine things that matter most" - Dieter F. Uchdorf

Andrea encouraged us to log how we spend our time this week. Last night when the kids were finally asleep, Christian was working on his research, and I had settled down in front of my computer to edit pictures, I saw the log and put it aside. There was no way I was documenting the embarrassing fact that it had taken me 11 hours to make some Valentine's Day treats. Somehow alfajores, even though I think they're glorious, just doesn't seem like something Uchdorf had in mind when he was talking about paying attention to the divine thing that matter most.

So I started going through the pictures I had taken of the day and right there on my screen was little Maria staring back at me. We had been up since 6:30 am, reading books on my bed, browsing different Pandora stations, taking silly pictures, and making dulce de leche in preparation for the alfajores I wanted to make. Suddenly I felt so grateful for the full day I just had, for the fact that I was able to parent my kids even through their crazies (and my crazies), and for my friends who kept coming by and helping me stay grounded throughout the laborious task of making alfajore pops.

7:30- Enzo gets up. The day has officially begun. We brush teeth, We change clothes. We wash our faces. I check on the pressure cooker, totally freaking out that it will explode our house down with the two cans of sweetened condensed milk I put inside to turn into dulce de leche. My heart skips a beat when I hear the bang sound coming from the kitchen. The pressure cooker is fine. The oatmeal, not so much. I make a quick decision, pick up the oatmeal, put it it the pan of boiling water, and serve my kids breakfast. I figured oatmeal from the kitchen floor wouldn't even make it to the top 10 nastiest things they would put in their mouth that day (last time I picked up enzo from school he was licking the slide). 

8:30- I take the kids to school. Come home and check my Facebook messages to get the alfajore recipe my auntie Rosa sent me from Brazil then run to the supermarket to buy corn starch.

9:30- Juliana comes over to help me bake. Juliana is a former student of mine who is incredibly busy with school but somehow finds the time to hang out with me. Two weeks ago when she came over we cleaned my bedroom together and on Friday after we had dinner she helped me give Maria a bath.

10:30- I start mixing the dough, make some modifications to the recipe, roll, cut, and bake. Luckily I'm entertained by my friend Angelina who comes by and humors me with stories about her 6 daughters. The oldest is in college and the youngest is in Maria's class. The stories about her teenagers are my favorite. I would vey much like it if Maria decided not to date until she was 25. Period.

noon- I pick up Maria from school. Nap time for her equals sandwiching dulce de leche in between alfajore cookies for me.

1:00- My friend Victoria calls and asks if I can watch her daughter Eva. I owe Victoria big time; I think I totally embarrassed her on Monday when we went out for breakfast, her in stilettos and I in my Havainas flip-flops. Eva comes over, Enzo comes home from school, and the two of them play beautifully which gives me more time to scream angry words at the melted chocolate I'm trying to work with. Victoria comes back and she calls me a masochist for trying to figure out how to best coat the alfajores in chocolate, but mostly we talk about life.

2:30- Eva is gone, Maria is still asleep, and Enzo and I have a moment to ourselves. We play games and I let him eat the rejected alfajores that will not make it into the Valentine's day pile.

3:00- Maria wakes up crusty as heck. I make the usual afternoon snack of popcorn. Normally we take our big bowl of popcorn out in the backyard  but I was coldy and voted for keeping the popcorn inside. Baby Maria became a total tyrant and screamed and banged on the door for, oh I don't know 15 minutes maybe, until we finally went outside. Whatever. Luckily my friend Melissa saw us and we were able to share our popcorn with her and her two daughters, one of which is in Maria's class.  Melissa is a great person to talk to, I highly recommend having a conversation with her. Melissa lives on a boat and has a good perspective on how to keep things simple and how to parent tyrannical babies.

4:30- Enzo starts asking if he's had too many sweets. This is code for "I'm hungry but since I never ask for healthy food can you give me a candy bar instead." I start cleaning the house and making dinner. Think melted chocolate all over the kitchen. Think popcorn on the carpet. Think toys. And books. And a dirty diaper under the couch. What the heck?! At least I vacuumed.

5:00- Christian comes downstairs entertains the kids and helps me finish dinner. I make fish tacos. Maria refuses to eat unless her taco is rolled up like the rest of ours, but here is the catch -- she won't let us hold her taco for her. This nonsense is driving me crazy. Christian gets up puts a rubber band around her taco and she finishes her dinner. Success.

9:00- The kids are down after books were read, games were played, the living room was vacuumed (again!), the kitchen was clean, and I finished my alafajore pops.

This is the story of my life. It starts early and ends with treats I slave over for hours and in between I get to develop relationships with people I love.

Gluten Free Alfajore Pops yields 45 pops

3 cups corn starch
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup cold butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cans sweetened condensed milk or 2 cans dulce de leche
1 lb bitter sweet chocolate chips
lollipop sticks

Making Dulce de leche
  1. Place the two cans of sweetened condensed milk inside a pressure cooker.
  2. Add enough water to cover the can.
  3. When your pressure cooker starts boiling turn down the heat to medium and leave it for 30 minutes.
  4. Open the pressure cooker and take out the cans. If you have never used a pressure cooker before don't make this as your first recipe. Make sure you know how to use a pressure cooker so that you're safe.
  5. Cool down the cans in a bath of ice cold water for 30 minutes.
  6. Open the can and check to see if it worked. You should be able to pick a piece off dulce de leche with your fingers and not have it runny.
Making the dough and dipping in chocolate

  1. Preheat oven to 350*
  2. Cut the cold butter into small pieces.
  3. Mix the corn starch, flour, eggs, sugar, and cinnamon together on a mixer for at least one minute so that the butter gets spread around.
  4. Add some cornstarch to a clean surface and form a ball with the dough.
  5. Roll it out about 1/2 cm thick and cut into your desired shape.
  6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and bake the cookies for 15 minutes.
  7. Place the cookies on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.
  8. Add a heaping tablespoon of dulce de leche on the back a cookie and spread it around. 
  9. Put another cookie on top to form a sandwich
  10. Clean out the edges so that it's not oozing out.
  11. Over a double boiler melt the chocolate chips.
  12. Fully emerse the cookies in the chocolate and place on top of a sheet of wax paper. While the chocolate is still hot inset a lollipop stick in the middle of the alfajore and set aside to cool completely. 
  13. Wrap it up in a small plastic goodie bag with a ribbon around it to maintain it's freshness.

I decided to go for the corn starch version because I'm experimenting more with gluten free recipes these days. Both Maria and I are going to get tested for gluten intolerance, which would explain so many of our symptoms. I'll keep you updated.

However, if you're looking for a recipe that uses wheat flour instead I suggest Matt's from Matt Bites. The recipe can be found at Martha Stewart along with a video. You should watch it. Matt is a lovely person.

I'll be back on Friday to show you how I'm using the lollipops to make the kids' Valentines. 
Have you started getting ready for Valentine's day? What kind of treats are you planning on making?


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