Alfajores (Argentinian Dulce de Leche Cookies)
My husband says alfajores are in Latin America’s what the Oreo is in the U.S. The sandwich cookies are arguably as recognizable, but they’ve got a more elaborate history. Alfajor is a derivation of an Arabic word meaning “stuffed,” as these treats are. Popular in Spain and in multiple Latin American countries, the alfajor was introduced—along with other foods and cultural elements—to the Iberian Peninsula during the centuries-long Moorish occupation that began in the 8th century.
Today, there are many different types of alfajores, with flavors, textures, coatings, and fillings all subject to regional influences, and of course, personal touches.
The alfajor I’m most acquainted with from trips to Buenos Aires, either homemade or commercial, are the ones in the accompanying recipe: shortbread rounds glued together with dulce de leche. The cookie is crumbly and tender, and the dulce de leche intense and sticky. Milk might be tempted to have a new favorite cookie.
Notes: After adding milk to above recipe, alfajores were really crumbly and good. Made the following recipe (which is a half-batch), modified from above. This yields about 12 sandwich cookies, using 2 ½ inch cutter. Recipe can be doubled.
Active time: 45 minutes
Total time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Equipment: 2 large baking sheets, parchment paper, sifter, electric mixer, rubber spatula, rolling pin, 2- or 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter, 2 cooling racks
Serves: Makes 12 to 15 sandwich cookies
Recipe notes: Recipe can be doubled; if doing so, in Step 4 divide dough in two, then wrap in plastic and proceed with recipe.
If your cookies don’t all fit on one baking sheet, bake in two batches, one batch at a time.
Sandwich cookies may be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
1 ¼ cups cornstarch
¾ cup all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting counter
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tablespoons sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon brandy or cognac
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 (13.4-ounce) can dulce de leche
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar (optional)
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sift together cornstarch, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
With mixer on medium speed, beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add brandy and vanilla. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula as needed.
Sift cornstarch mixture over butter mixture and combine with rubber spatula until dough comes together (mixture will be crumbly). Shape mixture into ball, cover loosely with plastic wrap (See Notes), and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Dust clean, dry work surface with flour. Rub rolling pin with flour. Roll dough to a thickness of ¼ inch. Using a 2- or 2 ½-inch round cutter, cut out cookies and arrange on prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. (See Notes)
Bake until cookie edges begin to turn light golden, about 12 minutes. Alfajores should be mostly white.
Transfer baking sheet to cooling rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes.
Once cooled, spread half the cookies with about 1 tablespoon dulce de leche. Cover with remaining cookies. Dust with confectioners’ sugar (optional). Serve.
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