I stocked up on vegan caramel cans in the last weeks of Radical Grocery's trading, but spotting more at The Cruelty Free Shop reassured me that I needn't hoard them any longer. I broke one out to fill these alfajores, assembling and sharing them 'round while watching movies with friends.
Alfajores are a Spanish/Latin American sweet and I think this Viva Vegan! recipe most resembles the Peruvian style: flat, round biscuits sandwiched together with dulce de leche. Romero offers chopped almonds round the edge as an optional extra, but I thought pistachios would be fun instead. Her biscuit recipe is gorgeous and easy to work with, yielding neat white shortbread biscuits fragrant with lemon, vanilla and dark rum. They're a little dry on their own, but would be nice with a cup of tea and are truly magical once they meet the caramel and nuts.
(based on a recipe in Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan!)
3/4 cup margarine
2/3 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2/3 cup cornflour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
generous pinch of salt
1 tablespoon soymilk
1 tablespoon dark rum
340g can vegan caramel
1/2 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
Place the margarine in a large bowl and sift over the icing sugar. Beat them together until well-mixed and fluffy with an electric mixer. Scrape the mixture from the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla and lemon zest, and beat it all some more. Sift in the flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt and beat it all together, starting on a low setting, until the mixture is crumbly. Pour over the soymilk and rum and beat the mixture a final time to form a cohesive dough. Turn the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it up and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat an oven to 160°C and line 1-2 baking trays with paper. Set out a large sheet of baking paper on a bench, break off half of the biscuit dough and place it on the paper. Fold over half of the paper and roll the dough to about 5mm thick. Use a 4cm diameter round biscuit cutter (or a small glass, perhaps?) to cut out biscuits and arrange them on the baking trays. Repeat with the remaining dough, roll up any scraps and keep going. Bake the biscuits for 12-14 minutes - you don't want them to go golden, so pull them out as soon as you notice a hint of colour on any of them. Let the biscuits cool for 5 minutes on the tray before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Place a spoonful of caramel onto the centre of a biscuit, and sandwich it with another biscuit. Roll the edges with pistachios, I pressed most of them in by hand. Repeat with the remaining biscuits and serve ASAP.