Chile’s Christmas Eve dinner is a late-night affair, taking place after midnight mass. Following a roast turkey, seafood and vegetables is a pan de pasqua (a Christmas fruit bread like Italy’s panettone), which is often served with alfajores, shortbread sandwiched with rich dulce de leche (Spanish caramel). There are many regional variations of these biscuits, but at Christmas it’s all about traditional alfajores and those with a crisp meringue coating. The celebration wouldn’t be complete without cola de mono, a milk-based punch made with sugar, spices, coffee and a hearty dose of aguardiente (a grape spirit) or pisco. It packs a punch and certainly makes for a feliz Navidad!
Alfajores, shortbread sandwiched with rich dulce de leche (Spanish caramel), are often served as part of Chile's Christmas celebrations.
- 300 g (2 cups) plain flour, sifted
- 50 g pure icing sugar, sifted, plus extra, to dust
- 200 g cold unsalted butter, chopped
- 2 egg yolks
- ¼ tsp anise extract (see Note)
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 275g dulce de leche (see Note)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time 1½ hours
Cooling time 20 minutes
Process flour, icing sugar, butter and a pinch of salt in a food processor until mixture resembles crumbs. Add egg yolks, anise and vanilla, then process until mixture comes together. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough out to 5 mm thick. Using a 6 cm-round pastry cutter, cut out 20 discs, re-rolling pastry if necessary. Place on a lined oven tray and refrigerate or freeze for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Bake biscuits for 15 minutes or until light golden. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Pipe dulce de leche over half the biscuits, then sandwich with remaining biscuits. Dust with extra icing sugar and serve or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Serve with cola de mono.
• Anise extract is available from select delis.
• Dulce de leche is a Spanish caramel available from delis and specialist food shops. Substitute tinned caramel from supermarkets or try this salted cardamom dulce de leche recipe.
Photography by Chris Chen
As seen in Feast magazine, Dec/Jan 2013, Issue 27.