Happy new year, very late! So much has happened since my last post. I wrote most of a novel during November (still working on that), and had visitors for the majority of December, so times have been very exciting.
Even if I wasn’t writing about food, everybody knows I was thinking about it… (and eating it, of course) In the spirit of jumping right back in though, today’s post is a recipe for one of my favorite Argentine foods: alfajores.
“What are alfajores?” you ask. An alfajor is a delicious cookie and dulce de leche sandwich, most often dipped in chocolate, most common in Argentina, but present all over South America. The Argentines eat them at every occasion I can think of – breakfast, dessert, waiting for the bus, merienda, walking down the street, whatever. They are for sale here in so many varieties that there is definitely no reason ever to make them yourself – but for you at home, I did it anyway 🙂 These homemade alfajores have it all: the crunch of the cookie, the creaminess of the dulce de leche, and the decadence of the chocolate topping combine for a divine dessert experience.
I was surprised at to find that traditional recipes for alfajores call for more corn starch than anything else – as a result, the cookie parts of the sandwich are very brittle. When I first made this, I translated a recipe from Spanish, but the original poster, Norali, went on to write an English version – an embellished and edited version is below. If you, like I, do not have ounce measuring cups, I included below the conversions to cups or tablespoons. They require some estimation on your part, but it’s totally do-able. She also did not chocolate-dip her alfajores, but I have included instructions for that below.
Classic Cornstarch Alfajores (Alfajores de maizena)
Makes 12-18 alfajores (depending on size)
7 oz. butter – 14 Tbsp (or) 1 & ¾ stick
7 oz. all purpose flour – 2.5/3 cups
10 oz. corn starch – 1 ¼ cups
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
5 oz. sugar – 5/8 cups
3 eggs yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest
Dulce de leche** and shredded dry coconut (use coconut only if not using chocolate).
Hardening chocolate*** and wax paper
1) Preheat the oven to 325. Grease a cookie sheet with butter, or line with parchment paper.
2) In a bowl, sift the flour, corn starch, baking powder and baking soda. Put aside.
3) In a stand alone mixer, mix the butter and sugar for 3 min. Add the eggs yolks one a the time, vanilla, and lemon. Add the flour mixture. The dough should be very dry and crumbly.
4) Roll the dough on a flat surface sprinkled with flour until it is 1/4 inch thick. Err on the thicker side if in doubt. Use the lip of a glass to cut out circles 2-3 inches in diameter.
5) Bake for about 10 to 15 min or until very light golden brown.
6) Remove cookies to cooling rack very carefully with a thin spatula – they will be brittle. Cool for 30 minutes.
7) If you are going to do the chocolate coating, melt the chocolate using your preferred method while you are making the sandwiches.
8) Spread dulce de leche onto an individual cookie and top with another to make a sandwich. Repeat until you are out of cookies! The amount of dulce de leche is up to you – I used a fairly thin layer, which was a little more than 2 tablespoons. A real Argentine would use a lot more 🙂
9) Place your adorable little sandwiches on your wax paper and pour chocolate over them one by one. I had to get a knife to smooth everything out – no shame.
10) Let chocolate harden, then devour!
*Norali’s recipe included a teaspoon of cognac, but not having any on hand, I omitted it. Feel free to try and let me know how it is!
**You can make your own dulce de leche using my recipe, or buy it in the international section of your grocery store. If you decide to use my method, I recommend boiling the can for the whole four hours.
***The coconut shavings are traditional only if you are not going to chocolate-dip your alfajores. As for chocolate coating, they sell something down here called baño de repostería (dessert bath), which I used to coat these (the first ingredient is corn syrup). I’m not sure if there is an equivalent in US groceries, but I think it would be just as good to melt milk or semi-sweet chocolate. Alternatively, white chocolate dipped alfajores are also very popular, and delicious IMHO.
These are definitely a Sunday afternoon kind of project – not like an easy chocolate chip cookie that you can whip up and be done with in an hour. However, they are incredibly delicious, and when you bite into one, you will not regret all your hard work. Until next time!
(note: I looked all over Norali’s site for a way to contact her to make sure I gave her ample credit for her recipe, to no avail. If anyone sees something I don’t, please let me know! I would love to be able to get in touch with her. Thanks!)