soft-baked cinnamon walnut cookies with dulce de leche

stack3A few weeks after my husband and I started dating, we attended a Christmas eve barbecue hosted by the parents of his best friend (and later, Best Man) Will. I was reasonably excited; mostly as I was about to meet Will’s beautiful parents, Nafa and Susan, who had swiftly adopted Aaron into their family after he and Will became best mates. Aaron has shared countless stories of this couple’s love, acceptance and generosity towards him, so it was a privilege to meet them as a ‘second set of in-laws’, so to speak.

I was also quite excited about the barbecue itself. Now, for those of you who are used to throwing a couple of snags on the barbie (‘sausages’ on the ‘barbecue’, for my non-Australian friends), let me explain: this was not just any barbecue. Will and his family are Argentinean migrants, and his father Nafa has become famous amongst our friends for his traditional, slow-cooked Asado (Argentinean-style, hot coal barbecue).

flowernutsAs soon as we arrived at the house, I understood what all the fuss was about. The smell of slow-roasted beef, sizzling pork ribs and chicken filled the air in a smoky, fragrant cloud. We were swiftly greeted with warm hugs, snacks and icy cold Coronas before tucking in to creamy potato salad, hot baked rolls, seasoned rice and mountains of charred meat laced with garlicky chimichurri. When we’d eaten our fill, the men started exchanging garlic-scented burps whilst the women sipped on maté and shared narratives of days gone by.

dulce1Towards the end of the evening, Susan and her daughter Miriam re-set the table with another spread: an assortment of teas, coffees, chocolates, fresh hot water, ‘first dessert’ and the requisite ‘second dessert’. Despite being full, I partook in fruit salad with ripe, fresh cherries, vanilla ice-cream and dulce de leche, a thick, glossy caramel that has since become a personal obsession of mine. Eaten straight from the jar, it somehow manages to taste both like thick condensed milk and deep, dark burnt sugar; when melted over ice-cream or pound cake, it transforms into the warmest, thickest and most delicious caramel sauce you can imagine.

walnutmontSince that night, Aaron and I have become loyal consumers of this Argentinean confection, usually over ice-cream but also in baked goods such as cheesecakes and more recently, soft-baked cookies. Up til now, I’ve been purchasing my supply from El Asador, a Perth company that locally manufactures their own chimichurri sauces, empanadas and homemade chorizo according to the family recipes of owner Max Pineiro.

However, despite the convenience I’ve recently been tempted to try and make my own caramel at home via David Lebovitz’s tutorial. Most other recipes for dulce de leche involve the hazardous step of boiling a can of condensed milk in water for hours. David’s method involves a baking tray with less pressure (consequentially removing the potential of an explosion… big yay for occupational health and safety).

fillingSo, after that prolonged introduction (sorry) today’s recipe is a variation of a soft-baked cookie recipe that I originally found on Sally’s Baking Addiction. I’ve enriched the basic cookie dough with fragrant cinnamon and toasted, crushed walnuts before stuffing each cookie with a spoonful of rich dulce de leche. The end result? Soft, chewy cookies with a fragrant, toasty walnut batter and a sweet caramel centre.

They’re some of the best cookies I’ve ever tasted, and I’m saying that entirely without bias (as to be honest, I’m harder on my own cooking than anyone elses!). Try one on its own, or crumble a couple (preferably straight from the oven) over cold vanilla ice-cream for a deliciously sweet and easy dessert.

stack2

Soft-baked Cinnamon Walnut Cookies with Dulce de Leche

Makes 40 cookies

  • 170g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (165g) dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) white caster sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon + 1/4 tsp extra, for sprinkling
  • 2 cups (250g) plain white flour
  • 2 teaspoon cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • sea salt
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts, crushed + 2 tbsp extra, for sprinkling
  • 100g dulce de leche (substitute with cajeta or Nestlé Top n’ Fill)

Place the butter and sugars into a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream together until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla, then continue to mix at medium speed until well combined.

chopcream

Sift in your flour, cornflour, baking soda, cinnamon and a large pinch of salt. Mix together with a spatula or wooden spoon, adding in your walnuts when the mixture starts to come together. The dough will be thick, moist and sticky. When well combined, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate your dough for at least 30 minutes, or until firm.

siftstirWhilst your mixture is chilling, line two medium-sized baking trays (or cookie sheets) with baking parchment. Check your dough – if it’s firm to the touch, it’s ready for shaping.

Scoop out 1 tbsp of dough from your mixture. Flatten it into a 0.5cm-thick pancake in your hands, then place 1/2 tsp of Dulce de Leche into the centre of the circle. Bring up the corners to enclose your caramel filling, then gently roll the dough into a ball. Place onto the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough and Dulce de Leche, placing each ball about 2cm apart on the baking tray or cookie sheet. When you’ve finished rolling all of your cookies, return the trays to the refrigerator to chill for 5-10 minutes.

stuffballsPreheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Take the cookies out of the refrigerator and flatten each ball slightly with your hands. Press a few bits of crumbled walnut into the top of each cookie and sprinkle with cinnamon. Place the cookies into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, swapping trays half way through the cooking process.

doneWhen ready, the cookies will be pale golden (not browned) and soft to the touch. They will firm up considerably upon cooling, so don’t worry if your finger sinks into the cookie surface when you touch it. Once you’ve removed the trays from the oven, leave the cookies to cool on their trays or cookie sheets for at least five minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

These cookies will keep fresh in an airtight container for up to one week. I’d suggest separating each layer with greaseproof paper to prevent sticking (as they’re quite soft, they’ll break if you try to separate them… and broken cookie = sad day).

crumbemptyAustralian Manufacturers of Dulce de Leche:

  • Mi Casa Fine Foods – based on the Gold Coast, Queensland
  • El Asador – based in Leederville, Western Australia
  • Crella – based in New South Wales. Product comes frozen.
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82 responses

    • Krystel!! Come around, I have a few left! By the way, I still need to reschedule that elderflower and pomegranate tutorial (and crochet blocking) session with you. I bought a pomegranate last week and I’m planning to try your curd recipe, finally. My poor little scarf has been sadly neglected for the past few months. I need to get my act together now that the weather’s cooling! x

  1. Can you make them for me without the walnuts Laura?? For when Brett and I come to dinner :) hhaaha awesome story. I also love the Argentinian cook ups!! Yummmmm!

    • Yes definitely… anything for you Kendy! Let me know when you’re coming around and I’ll get baking… maybe with dark chocolate chips as a substitute for the walnuts? And yup, I wish I could eat an Argentinean cook up every day. Though, if that was the case I’d probably be very fat by now ;) xx

  2. these sounds incredible!!! yum!! best flavour combination… i’m drooling :P
    and what a lovely story to accompany this delicious recipe! :)

    • Thanks beautiful. I definitely love the combination of nuts and caramel also… a bit like praline, but a soft and chewy version :) Thanks for taking the time to comment x

      • oooo yes – like praline – yum! :)
        no worries – it is a lovely post with a delicious looking recipe!! what can be better? :P

      • Haha, definitely agree lovely. So nice to ‘chat’ with you over the blogosphere… meeting lovely people is one of the best things about blogging, methinks! xo

      • yes! – lovely to have a ‘chat’ haha :)
        it is! i couldn’t agree more – it is one of the best things – get to meet lovely people like you! :)
        looking forward to your next post! xo

        p.s. i LOVE the bowl the walnuts are in :)

      • The bowl was el cheapo from Target!! I think I got it for about $6? You can probably buy one from your local store if you’re fast (I got it about a month ago… I’m always scouting for cheap and bright props for photos). They had a couple of others in similar patterns also, but I stopped myself buying more as our apartment is already overflowing :) Looking forward to reading your next post too beautiful… I’m loving your latest fashion updates (argh, for an endless budget… I need to win lotto!) xo

      • of course target! i actually love that store! i was in their the other day and was like – i would happily furnish my house with all of this – its great! :) and $6 – what a bargain!
        thank-you! :)
        and yes – that would solve solve all our shopping troubles! ahhh wouldn’t it be nice…. :P
        xo

      • I know what you mean, I used to have a bit of a prejudice against Target but their homewares are actually quite nice these days… I was also eyeing off a beautiful ceramic 2-tier cake stand but decided that I didn’t ‘need’ it at the last minute (aw, but I wanted it!! Doesn’t that count?!). Hope you manage to find a similar bowl to add to your collection Becca! xo

      • yes it defiantly does count! haha :) a 2-tier cake stand sounds ideal!
        thank-you! keeping my eyes peeled, along with collecting unnecessary (yet sooo necessary) bits & bobs along the way from markets – just can’t seem to help myself! :P xo

      • I’m exactly the same Bec! I absolutely love scrounging around markets and antique shops! It’s amazing how much people charge for vintage teacups and stuff these days though… I guess it’s kinda become a hipster thing (annoyingly) so people will pay more. I tell myself that all of these small investments in accessories will one day pay off when I get a job working in food (argh, I can only dream!) xo

      • yeah – i agree! sometimes its way overpriced for what it is – that’s when i turn to opp shops! :P
        they are most certainly worth it! :) you will be patting yourself on the back some day soon when you are in the food business! :) what are you hoping to do?
        yeah – wouldn’t be a dream to work with food! – would feel like you’ve never worked a day in your life! (yeah.. girl can dream! haha) xo

      • I’m hoping to own a little cafe somewhere, with beautiful raw timber and fresh flowers, lots of salads and juices to order… where I can bake my own cakes and make delicious coffee to serve from vintage teacups! My husband and I are quite arty also, so I’m hoping to have a gallery off the side, with an animation studio for Aaron up above. It’ll be like our own little family business. Possibly one day. Alternately, I’d love to work as a recipe developer for cookbooks or… even just get some money through working for a food website. We’ll see what happens :) But in the meantime, it’s fun dreaming! And yes, I love op shops. Though in Perth there isn’t as much nice stuff as over in Melbs or Sydney (I know, I’ve looked!!) xo

      • what a wonderful and exciting vision you have!! :) one cafe i would soooo love to visit!
        oooo recipe developer or food websites would be amazing as well! i know you’d be great at any of them – the world is your oyster my friend! :) and you have the talent!
        i always thought it would be cool to to open a funky cafe with all these personalized meals on the menu e.g. ‘beccies bruschetta’ and stuff like that, with a real relaxed living room feel, like with a couch set up with a coffee table so it’s all communal with a family vibe :) – yeah – girl can dream! haha
        op shopping = awesome shopping at bargain prices – love it! xo

    • Thanks Sarah… you had me completely confused for a second! Love the new blog name and what it represents. Gorgeous, gorgeous photos in your latest post :) I hope you’ll try the recipe. The cookies turned out beautifully (with the added bonus of Omega 3 from the walnuts, haha!) xx

    • Thanks lovely! Again, I wish that I could give you some (hmm… these would probably fare a little better than the ice pops if posted, but it’s probably still a bad idea!) xx

    • Definitely agree lovely. I’m even happy eating it straight from the jar with a spoon! P.S when do I get to read a new post from you?? Missing my eat sweet. fix!! xx

      • Oh yes, eating it straight from the jar with a spoon is the best! Aw, you are too sweet. I love the fact that you are looking forward to a post. I have been away for a little while, so I’m hoping to get baking again soon! :) xo

      • I figured you must’ve been doing something interesting. Well, whenever you have time to get back into the kitchen (meaning that in a nice way, not a “Get back in the kitchen, wench!” kind of way) I look forward to seeing what you create. You’re definitely a natural baker… beautiful and inspiring in more ways than one! xo

    • Thanks for the inspiration Sally! You know, I’d never had much success with soft-baked cookies until I tried a couple of your versions. Worked perfectly, so thanks heaps! xx

  3. When I was young I lived in Buenos Aires with my family for a while. To be honest with you, I will never get all this obsession with dulce de leche. Maybe because I do not have a sweet tooth. People are crazy about it. When I was there, Argentinian girls were starving themselves (they were amazingly beautiful and skinny) just to be able to have a small portion of dulce de leche on Saturday.
    Having said that, your pictures are gorgeous and the cookies look great.
    You are a lucky girl. Argentinians are wonderful people. :-)

    • Thanks so much for the comment Francesca. You’re lucky that you don’t share a similar obsession for dulce de leche, it’s addictive for those with a sweet tooth! Since I first tried a spoonful, I’ve wanted to eat it every day. It’s sad that the girls over there would feel a need to starve themselves. I definitely agree that Argentinean people are beautiful, inside and out, and that health should be the main focus (though I won’t get started on that topic… perceptions of beauty in the media make me angry!). I feel extremely blessed to share my life with this wonderful family. They’re so generous, kind and warm… Aaron and I took wedding pictures with our ‘third family’ also, as they mean that much to us! Thanks again for sharing your insights. I appreciate it xx

    • Thanks lovely. They turned out really well! I used to prefer crunchy cookies til I tried a couple of Sally’s soft-baked versions. So good. So moreish, especially with the additional cinnamon and caramel! Thanks for the comment x

  4. Oh, you’ve got me with anything caramel, even though I don’t have a sweet tooth. Must have a look at the tutorial.
    Really lovely photos, too. If you have the time I’d really like to know how you manage to add two photos side by side as that looks so good.

    • Thanks Johnny… haha, yep caramel is in a category of its own, isn’t it? The reason I love dulce de leche is because it isn’t just pure sweetness. It’s got this amazing depth of flavour and slight hint of bitter toffee from the ‘cooking’ process. I’m hoping to bake some in an apple crumble when the weather cools down enough. Re the photographs, I just use a basic photoshop process for the side-by-side images. Under ‘file’, create a new canvas (I normally do 2000×1000) then just copy and drag two images onto the canvas (they’ll be under two ‘layers’, then you can reposition them with the control or command key). When you’re happy with the positioning, just ‘flatten’ the image so that you can save it as a pdf rather than a psd. My email is auralasu@yahoo.com.au if you have any other photoshop questions, or if you’d like me to explain this method more fully. It’s easy once you know how!

      • Thanks so much for the info, re PS. Must’ve been having a ‘Doh’ moment last night as I should’ve realised that. Yes, I’ve been using PS for years now. However, really appreciate your offering help.
        – I’ve never had the goats milk version of Dulce de Leche. I’m intrigued!

      • Ah, I had a feeling that you possibly thought I’d inserted two separate photos into the post via some kind of other wordpress function! But nope, just simple old photoshop. I’m not that advanced when it comes to HTML or other blogging codes. And re the goats milk version – it’s actually much more delicious, for those of us who prefer tangier, savoury notes in our caramel (which is me! I love most goat milk products over traditional cow’s milk). It’s harder to buy here in Western Australia though. I might try to make my own…

    • Definitely right Nicole! Batches of cookies like these are much better if shared in a crowd… otherwise there’s a huge danger that the leftovers will be consumed all at once (by me, and my unstoppable addiction to dulce de leche)!

    • Aw, thanks Uru! Haha… same goes for your Anzac cookie ice-cream. I was practically drooling over my keyboard (I would’ve been, if not for the accompanying story… really brought things home in a confronting but good way!).

      • Haha I cannot believe I am seeing this now (I was stalking your posts… again :P) – I am glad you enjoyed that ice cream and I suppose for the story, I just never want history to forget what people went through because the moment we forget, it is innate human nature that it will happen again!
        It is a scary thought!

        Cheers
        Choc Chip Uru

      • Uru hon, I feel bad as I have no idea what this comment relates to! Ice cream? But as far as stalking my posts goes, feel free to stalk away…! I stalk yours all the time (particularly for chocolatey goodness, mmm!) xx

      • That is not a problem my friend :D
        I felt bad for not replying immediately haha I think I missed your initial reply in my newsfeed ;)
        You have my full permission to stalk away I specialise in chocolate haha

        Cheers
        CCU

    • Aw, thank you lovely! I do think that your photographs trump mine just a little bit (I really need to invest in a tripod and DSLR) but I appreciate your feedback so much. I look forward to swapping more recipes and stories with you xx

    • Aah you are too kind my dear! But thanks… I appreciate it hugely. Happy to be blogging friends with you, can’t wait to see what you cook up next (I’ve bookmarked the choux recipe with the scary pastry cream… will let you know how I go!) xx

  5. Laura, this post is so lovely and overwhelming. Your description of the barbecue make my mouth water and the ice cream and dessert set me drooling. I have yet to try a soft cookie which is my favorite. I should just try baking it instead of visiting subway too often. :)

    • Thanks Danny. Soft cookies are definitely easy to bake at home… try Sally’s original recipe (via the link) for ones that are similar to Subway but maybe add 2 tbsp of batter per cookie? The 1 tbsp cookies end up being rather small, which is good for bite-sized cookie goodness but it doesn’t mimic the Subway experience (haha, I definitely understand the addiction… Subway cookies are delicious!). Thanks as always for your kind words :)

    • Thanks so much Megan-the-cookie-goddess!! Your feedback means a lot :) Hm, if you lived closer I’d suggest swapping a batch of these for a couple of those amazing-looking red velvet cupcakes… can’t believe you made them from a box!? I always steer clear of boxed mixes as I worry that they’ll taste ‘artificial’, but I’ve seen many food bloggers combine them with fresh ingredients successfully. I don’t know if Duncan Hines is stocked over here in Ausland but I’m curious… so much easier than baking from scratch for a last-minute work/party contribution!

  6. Oh My! these are my kind of cookie. They are so much more than just a cookie! They are everything you could ever want in a bite – soft, chewy and oozy caramel sauce – how could you go wrong. I’m going to give the baking pan method of making dulce-de-leche a go and then make a batch of these cookies. I’m drooling already at the thought of one of these little babies straight out of the oven.

    • Aw thanks lovely! Yeah they’re amazing straight out of the oven… well, after a few minutes cooling (I ate one straight up and almost burnt myself with molten caramel. Me silly). They’re incredible eaten warm with ice-cream. And yes… I’ve now tried the pan method and it’s foolproof! Worked perfectly and I now have a nice little homemade batch of dulce de leche for my next load of cookies (I now have four orders from my ‘taste testers’. So be warned. If you make these you may become an oven-slave) xx

  7. I´m trying these as soon as I can Laura. Really amazing! I usually get drippy burned dulce de leche when I fill and bake, which I don´t mind at all since it´s the best part, but I´m curious that this one doesn´t spill. Did you use pastry ddl? It´s thicker. Glad you enjoy our asados, they´re quite a spectacle sometimes.

    • Hi Paula! Hm, in regards to the dulce de leche, I think it was just normal… but it’s almost winter here so the room temperature was rather cold when I baked (the ddl was quite firm to scoop) and then I chilled the cookie balls prior to baking them (I think I put that in the recipe? I need to check and edit if it’s not!). I think it was the last chilling step that kept the cookies together… the outside cooked quicker than the inside, so the filling didn’t boil and the cookies didn’t split :) And I definitely love the asados!! Amazing… the best meat I’ve ever tasted. And I’m actually addicted to chimichurri now… I put heaps on my meat, it’s beautiful (haha… my husband and I make sure that we both eat it so we’re equally garlic-breathed!!). Thanks so much for taking the time to comment xo

    • Of course Viveka! Not one calorie (well, we can dream!). Wish that I could bring a batch of these over to your house. Or better still, make them with you so that you can most definitely lick the mixing bowl! x

    • Haha, I grew up with crunchy cookies (as did most British and Australians… we called them ‘biscuits’!) so they were all I used to eat once upon a time. I’m now getting used to the soft-baked cookies (first introduction being Subway, ages ago!) and I’ve grown to love them. This recipe is definitely delicious. My brain’s ticking over how it could be veganised… I think the cookie batter itself would be easy, with Nuttelex or another plant-based butter equivalent and a flax egg. However, the milk-based dulce de leche seems irreplaceable… hm, a chocolate nut butter? I think it would work beautifully… as would honey-roasted peanut butter! The walnuts could be switched for cacao nibs (oh I’m getting excited now! I might try these suggestions myself!). Thanks so much for the comment. Lovely to be blogging friends with you! xx

    • Thanks for letting me know about your post Erika! Love the idea of adding chocolate chips, but definitely try the dulce de leche next time… it makes the centre of each cookie really soft, gooey and delicious! Glad the recipe worked out though! I’ve replied on your post xx

  8. Oh, yum. I have to try these!

    Speaking of barbecue, I recently started reading Michael Pollan’s new book, Cooked (I will have to lend it to you when I’m done). The first chapter is about barbecue, as in Southern USA barbecue – pork only, no coals, no flame, cooked over wood. Mmm my mouth is watering just thinking about moist smokey pork with crunchy crackling.

    • Oh wow. That book sounds incredible… I am completely in love with wood-smoked pork. Yup, definitely sign me up for a read and if I manage to cook any of it, we’re having a dinner party!! By the way… we finally took Paul to Andaluz last weekend (darn it, why were you away!) and had their rolled, smoked pork belly. Ah-mazing. I am drooling just thinking about it. We need to go back there.

    • Haha… yep, that stuff is so deliciously addictive! By the way, I need to check out your blog to see if you have a recipe for palak paneer. I am so, so addicted. I buy it every time I go to my local Indian restaurant, usually with heaps of garlic naan and goat curry! Yum :)

      • That, and tres leches. I can’t get enough of that stuff. I was craving it so bad one day I invited my Puerto Rican friend over just so we could make the cake. Best day ever. I actually do have a recipe for palak paneer, although it’s not my usual recipe, I think I like it better. The other way I make it is just to cook then blend the spinach, leaving everything else whole. I wish my pictures could come out like yours! I’m just like, ok so a door is open and there’s junk on the table. Snap a pic. Oops. Ha!

      • Ah YES. Tres leches is so, so delicious… moist, milky, sweet goodness! My Argentinean friends actually don’t make that cake so I’ll have to look up a recipe for myself (at present, I’ve just eaten it so it’d be my first attempt… do you have a foolproof recipe? Wish me luck!). Haha, your pictures come out amazingly well, considering that you don’t consider yourself as a natural photographer! I’m just learning as I go along really. I tend to draw, paint and dabble in other art stuff a bit so I guess my creative side helps with the framing and editing. Wish I could taste your palak paneer! I might try the blended spinach version next time and see if it’s more like my favourite restaurant’s palak paneer. Thanks lovely!

      • Aaaaactually, we made the cake pretty identical to this recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/tres-leches-milk-cake/ . I think it is one of my all-time most favorite cakes ever. I think I could probably get better pictures if the lighting in my place was better. My boyfriend likes to use white lights, and the low energy ones. So it’s always dark in here. And it would probably help if I had a real kitchen with fancy things. Soooo a black table it is! I do think having a creative side helps a lot! I like to sew when I have a chance, but I guess that doesn’t help with cooking and pictures! Haha!

      • Aw yum, that sounds delicious! Thanks for the recipe. We have energy-saving bulbs at our house too, so I have to take pictures whenever there’s natural light (and those hours are getting shorter as we approach winter, eek!). Wouldn’t it be nice to have all the money in the world to buy beautiful props and kitchen equipment? I’m currently lusting over a Vitamix but I’m not going to have enough money to purchase one for quite some time, if ever!! Sewing is definitely creative. But you’re right… it doesn’t translate as easily into photography as drawing does. In saying that, though… your pictures, recipes and cooking is amazing! You underestimate yourself!

      • Have you researched the blender called the Ninja?? I have one, in the large and small, with all the tools, and it is amazing. It’s the only blender I ever use, and you can make dough, soup, ice cream, etc in it. AWESOME!!!

    • Thanks Laura! I completely agree on all counts. Spices, walnuts and caramel are three of my favourite things (hence why they appear in so many of my dessert posts… lucky for me that others like them too, haha) x

    • Awwwww I wish I lived closer! I’d swap you an entire batch of these for just one of your choc chip cookie cups!!! Or maybe two. Got to take advantage of the situation ;) Thanks so much for the comment, my lovely sweet-treat-guru friend! xx

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