No trip to Argentina would be complete without a trip to El Pan de Azucar — that charming little bakery off the beautiful cobble-stoned Plaza General San Martin in Córdoba — for some colaciones. We can see it now. Glossy stacks of these palm-sized sweets crowd the counters, with their colorful packaging and handwritten signs that make us ache.
It’s been two years now since we were last there to buy a boxful in person, and the nostalgia was getting untenable. So we attempted the previously unthinkable: we made them.
The recipe was a bit hard to come by. Colaciones seem to be unique to Córdoba (we’ve not seen them elsewhere…), and thus, unlike their ubiquitous cousins alfajores, they don’t appear in our copy of Doña Petrona, the bible of dulces criollos. And we didn’t have one from la abuela, either.
But — the internet is an amazing thing. Have you ever tried to google something through another country’s google? Yes: http://www.google.com.ar will, when you type in “colaciones”, actually give you results. We found a YouTube video of Pia Fendrik (who upon further googling checked out as a serious Argentinean chef) and set to work. Here’s her video. We had to share it with you, if anything so you can listen to her lovely accent!
Of course, taste memory is strong, especially with our beloved colaciones, and we were not convinced with how Pia’s recipe turned out. The cookie was too dry, the glaze too overpowering. So we did a little experimentation, referred to the famous Pierre Herme for glaze tips (yes, we know he’s French), called upon the Argentinean chef parents for ayuda and came up with our tweaked version. They’re almost as good as those of El Pan de Azucar. The only thing missing? Córdoba.
En fin! Homemade colaciones – a small miracle. They’re not particularly difficult, though a bit time consuming as Argentinean pastry tends to be. Our big adjustment beyond cooking times and temperatures was to use fondant patissier for the glaze, rather than making one from powdered sugar & hot water. It’s a bit of an esoteric baking ingredient, however, so if you don’t have some on hand, Pia’s method is good enough.
As for the dulce de leche, we can’t advise you to make it from scratch, having not tried it (yet) ourselves. But we will advise you to use real dulce, if you can find it. These days Whole Foods has started carrying La Salamandra, a pretty good Argentinean brand. And if not, boiled sweetened condensed milk will work in a pinch.
And: let these sit in an airtight container for at least two days before enjoying them. Really. Like french macarons, these cookies greatly benefit from some time to absorb moisture from the filling.
makes 2 dozen
adapted from Pia Fendrik
100 grams flour
20 grams cornstarch
5 grams baking powder
4 egg yolks
20 grams granulated sugar (or, better, caster sugar, if you have it)
10 ml cold water
10 ml cognac, or something similar
250 grams dulce de leche
250 grams fondant patissier
1. Sift the dry ingredients and set aside.
2. With a fork, beat the egg yolks with the sugar, water and cognac until well mixed.
3. Mix the wet and dry ingredients, first with a fork and then with your hands, until it forms a smooth dough. If the eggs are large and your dough is still sticky, add the tiniest bit of flour – just enough to be able to form a ball.
4. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap, and let rest 30 minutes at room temperature.
5. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
6. Roll out the dough to about 3 millimeters thick, and cut out small disks, about 4 centimeters in diameter. Take each circle, and stretch and flatten the center of it, leaving a narrow edge untouched around the perimeter, like so:
(This dough doesn’t really hold up to more than two sessions of being rolled out, so be economical in your cookie-cutting!)
6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay out the disks. They don’t expand much during baking, so no need to leave much room between them. Pinch the flattened center of each disk with a fork, leaving the edges untouched. As they bake, the edge will puff up more than the middle, creating a small container for the dulce de leche. (Pia likens them to small ships!)
7. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, until just lightly golden. Air on the side of less time, as they dry out quickly. Bake each tray separately, as they’re a bit finicky, and rotating pans will increase the chances that they over bake. Place on a rack, and to cool to room temperature.
8. Once cooled, fill the center of each disk with dulce de leche, being sure to keep the edges clean.
9. And lastly, coat the top of each cookie with fondant. The tricky thing with the fondant is that it has to stay warm, or it will seize up. Melt the fondant in a bain-marie on the stove, and leave it simmering as you work. Add 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon of hot water, and whisk. You want the fondant to be thin and runny, to make coating easier. Stir the fondant often as you work, and add hot water by the teaspoon as needed (the water will evaporate over time, so depending on how long it takes to coat the cookies, you’ll likely add water two or three times.)
Be careful not to burn your fingers! It’s a bit hard to explain the process, so we made you a little video:
10. Place the coated cookies on a rack, and let the fondant harden. Store the cookies between layers of wax paper in an airtight container. Give them two days, and enjoy!