I adore dulce de leche, and have long pondered making my own. Martha, true to form, gives complex instructions about simmering condensed milk in a double boiler for 5 hours (yeah yeah yeah...) but I knew that it was possible to simply boil unopened cans of condensed milk to get the same effect. Slightly scary though, don't you think? I was thrilled to come upon this method, as described in a new-favourite blog of mine, Crockpot 365. I must try that some time... but it takes 8 hours and I wanted dulce de leche NOW! So I followed a link from Crockpot365 to the Eagle Brand website, which gave several methods for making it. The one that involved a mere 26 minutes in the microwave seemed the obvious choice, so that's what I did. It worked really well, although I fear that I nuked it for a couple of minutes too long, as it became almost toffee-like as it hardened, and I found myself chewing it off the spoon. I ended up adding a splash of milk to thin it down to the correct consistency. It tastes perfect, but just keep a close eye on it near the end of the microwaving time.
I only made 1 can-worth of dulce de leche, so decided to also halve the recipe for the cookies. Somehow 'only' using 1 and a half sticks of butter didn't seem so terrifyingly unhealthy as the 3 sticks in Martha's recipe. I still have birthday cake in the house from last weekend, so I didn't want to subject myself to the pressure of having to eat lots of cake and cookies! However, it still made 2 dozen cookies... oops!
I had assumed that the cookies would be like shortbread, but in fact they were rather more like pastry - quite flaky. Unfortunately some of mine were a little like puff pastry, and rose up dramatically during the cooking, making them tricky to sandwich together. I'm not sure why this happened, but I had a few mini-explosions as I tried to squish them flat. Because they were so pastry-like, I found that they looked rather dull. Boring really. Even though I had played about with my fun Linzer Cookie Press (hence the cool cut-out shapes on the tops), they looked a bit sad. This is clearly why Martha recommends the sanding sugar topping, something else that had hadn't been bothered to do. I must address my increasing culinary laziness. OK, now I'm only balking at the 5-minute job of sprinkling some sugar... the next thing you know I'll be blogging about buying microwave ready-meals.
After much faffing around I filled half of them with the dulce de leche, and the other half with Nutella (never a bad option) and after a quick dusting with icing sugar they looked fairly presentable. The cookies themselves are slightly bland, but enough sickly filling means that's not too much of a problem. If I made these again I think I wouldn't actually use this recipe at all - I'd make a plain shortbread cookie and sandwich them together with the dulce de leche.
Re-reading Kelly-Jane's blog post, I see that hers look like - and are described as - shortbread cookies. I clearly did something wrong. Ah well. We live and learn! I had intended to send these into work with Rob for his office bake-sale, but as I now learn that the bake-sale has been cancelled, I know a staff-room where these will be appreciated, no matter what they look like...