Simple sweet potato fries

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Try, try again — and then keep trying until you finally figure it out. That’s what I did with this recipe for sweet potato fries.

Over the past few months I tried making sweet potato fries that were somewhat soft on the inside and a bit crisp on the outside. My first couple attempts were failures due to too much oil that left the fries soggy. When I reduced the amount of oil, the fries still didn’t get crisp, so I started lining the baking sheet with parchment paper. That helped a great deal, but there was still too much oil. I needed something to soak it up. I read someone else’s recipe for sweet potato fries, and they said they added cornstarch, so I did the same. The fries were almost there, they just needed more seasoning. I’m glad to say that, on about my seventh attempt, I got a recipe I can use again for sweet potato fries.

This recipe makes a single serving, but can easily be multiplied to make as much as you want. Enjoy.

Ingredients
1 sweet potato
1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Meanwhile, peel potato and cut into 1/4-inch strips, or as uniformly as possible so they fries cook evenly.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill a one-gallon sealable plastic bag with the arrowroot, ginger, salt and cayenne pepper.

On either a cutting board, in a bowl, or in another bag, drizzle the olive oil over the cut potato. Mix until fries are evenly coated. Put the potato pieces in the bag with the dry mixture. Seal the bag and shake until fries are evenly coated.

Place fries on the parchment paper in a single layer. Be sure to avoid crowing so they don’t stick together and keep from getting crisp. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from oven, turn fries over, and bake for about 15 minutes more, or until slightly crispy. Serve hot.

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Sweets for your sweethearts

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Alfajores were not a cookie I went in search of, rather, they crossed my path online. And what a beautiful cookie it is. It’s a light, South American cookie held together by dulce de leche, which is like spreadable caramel. The dough is made from a combination of flour and cornstarch, which gives it a silky feel when being rolled out.

I didn’t know how easy it was to make dulce de leche until I tried this recipe, which requires pouring a can of sweetened condensed milk into a pie dish, sprinkling it with salt, covering it with foil, putting the whole thing in a water bath and baking it for a couple hours. That’s it. While it took more time than traditional caramel does to make, it was easier than watching the color of the sugar syrup change in a pan on the stove. Dulce de leche is the slightest bit grainy, but it’s spreadable, which is perfect for these cookies. I made the cookies before the dulce de leche, which was a good order to do it in if you’re doing it all in one day. If you plan to tackle the recipe in two parts on different days, do the dulce de leche first.

I opted to use a heart-shaped cookie cutter for these because I thought the cookies would be cuter, and festive for Valentine’s Day — plus, I don’t think sandwich cookies should ever be big. I like mine small and sweet, and these were perfect. They are labor-intensive and time-consuming to make, but are completely worth it.

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1 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon baking powder (use 1/2 teaspoon if you’re at high altitude)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon pisco, brandy or cognac
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dulce de leche, at room temperature (recipe below)
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Place the cornstarch, measured flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk briefly to combine; set aside.

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl once with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks, pisco or brandy, and vanilla and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, gradually add the reserved flour mixture and mix until just incorporated with no visible white pockets, about 30 seconds.

Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape it into a smooth disk, and wrap it tightly. Place in the refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Roll to 1/4-inch thickness (the dough will crack but can be easily patched back together). Stamp out 24 rounds using a plain or fluted 2-inch round cutter, rerolling the dough as necessary until all of it is gone.

Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, 12 per sheet and at least 1/2 inch apart. Bake 1 sheet at a time until the cookies are firm and pale golden on the bottom, about 12 to 14 minutes. Or, if you make smaller cookies like I did, bake for about 8 minutes. (The cookies will remain pale on top.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Flip half of the cookies upside down and gently spread about 2 teaspoons of the dulce de leche on each. Place a second cookie on top and gently press to create a sandwich. Dust generously with powdered sugar before serving.

Dulce de lechealfojares4
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon fine salt

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Pour milk into a pie plate and sprinkle with salt. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in a roasting pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven and add enough hot tap water to reach halfway up the sides of the pie plate. Bake for 1 hour.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven and remove the pie plate. Carefully uncover the plate and whisk the mixture until smooth, about 1 minute. Replace the foil and return the pie plate to the water in the roasting pan. Place back in the oven, adding more hot water so that it remains halfway up the sides of the pie plate. Continue to bake until the dulce de leche is dark golden brown (about the color of peanut butter), about 1 1/2 hours more.

Remove from the oven and transfer the pie plate to a wire rack. Remove the foil and whisk the dulce de leche until smooth, about 3 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in an airtight container with a tight-fitting lid for up to 1 week.