by Sierra Drucker and Catherine McNulty

In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we decided to put a Latin spin on this edition of Aural Fixation, the column that gives you tasty treats for the tongue and ears. Make sure you bring your sombreros and maracas.

Alfajores

The cultures south of the border have given us so much – tequila, tortillas, Tecate – and that’s just the T’s. So honor those in the hotter climates by indulging in these perfect little cookies. Two crisp and buttery sugar cookies held together by creamy, caramelly dulce de leche. When should you eat them? Really the question is when shouldn’t you…

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto*
  • zest of ½ or whole lemon**
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Dulce de Leche for filling (recipe follows)
  • Grated coconut or favorite nut (toasted and chopped) for garnish

*can use brandy, cognac, or other liquer
**I like lemon zest, so I used a whole lemon

Preheat oven 325F. Sift together flour, cornstarch, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar. While mixing slowly add egg yolks; then add vanilla, amaretto, and lemon zest.

Add dry ingredients to wet. Mix thoroughly.

Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours, minimum. On a lightly floured work surface (powdered sugar can also be used), roll out dough 1/8 – ¼ inch thick. It may be easier to roll the dough out in batches. Using a cookie cutter, cut 1 to 2 inch rounds. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until lightly golden brown and dry to touch.

After cookies have cooled completely smear dulce de leche on the bottoms of half the cookies, top with other half of cookies. Press together to squish out filling slightly and roll in coconut or nut or other desired garnish. EAT.

Dulce de Leche

(The quick and deliciously dirty version)

Pre-heat oven to 425F. Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk into a pie or cake pan. Cover tightly with foil. Make a water bath with boiling water and put pie/cake pan in the middle, making sure the water only reaches halfway up the pan. Bake for one to one and a half hours until the sweetened condensed milk is a rich caramel color. Mix thoroughly. Resist smothering it on everything.

And now for some musica!

Seeing as the alfajor finds its roots in several Latin countries, I’ve decided to keep the
geographical theme broad, including music from all parts of Latin America.

Perez Prado “Que Rico el Mambo (Remix)”

Let’s start your kitchen adventure with a bang courtesy of Perez Prado 2000 Remixes. When I hear this little jam I imagine a sort of kitchen mambo. Aprons twirling, pans banging, flour flying everywhere. Andale!

El Guincho “Bombay”

El Guincho is the Spanish answer to Animal Collective. Bombay entails that “space-age exotica” that artist Pablo Díaz-Reixa proclaims of his music. Consider this song inspiration while you’re shaping your saucer cookies.

Pilar Diaz “Piñata”

Ms. Diaz has some serious cajones, just like your flavor-packed balls of dough. Enjoy her delightfully disturbing video for “Piñata” here.

Juana Molina “Un Dia”

Juana Molina started her career as an actress on the Argentinian hit sketch comedy show Juana y sus Hermanas. Her turn to the music world was met with much skepticism, but her accomplishments as a songstress have astonished many. Think Bjork meets Deerhoof south of the border. Much like the alfajores, Ms. Molina is a woman of many layers.

Gaby Moreno “Intento”

Guatemelan-born Moreno sings beautifully in both Spanish and English, sounding like her own unique and caramel sweet mix of Norah Jones and Katie Melua.

Sergio Mendes “Magalenha”

You may not realize, but Sergio Mendes’ classic, Magalenha is actually a reference to Mary Magdalene. And what you may not realize about your precious alfajores, is just how many you can eat in one sitting.

Ana Tijoux “1977”

Tijoux is like an edgier version of Nelly Furtado. While Nelly’s like a bird who will only fly away, Senorita Tijoux is like a dragon who will bitch slap you sideways and then fly off with your wallet. Good thing it doesn’t cost much to enjoy these pastries.

Brian Lopez “El Pajaro y el Ciervo” (Live at Solar Culture)

Speaking of birds, “El Pajaro y el Ciervo” aka “The Bird and the Wire” was love at first listen for me. Much like the alfajores, Lopez rests on tradition to deliver this delightful Spanish-tinged indie chamber folk rock.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo! We recommend you enjoy these treats with a shot of tequila and a pair of headphones.

Catherine McNulty quit her day job and decided to become part of the problem, not the solution in America’s battle of the bulge by attending culinary school to become a pastry chef. When she’s not cursing ovens and scarfing cookies at ungodly hours in the morning, she can be found at http://noms-away.blogspot.com.

Sierra Drucker lives, breathes, and apparently now eats music. She currently works for Format Entertainment as a Music Coordinator/Supervisor, and also spins locally as DJ Sea. If you’re hungry for more musical musings, head over to her digital homebase, http://inlandsounds.blogspot.com.