alfajores

December 23rd, 2011

Come Christmas time, I become a cookie fanatic. Every year I bake at least 10 different varieties. There are a few that I make every year, but mostly it’s, “what is new?! what haven’t I tried?! what sounds super delicious?!” Last year I stumbled on alfajores and this year they were the first cookie on my list.

alfajores

Alfajores: the most delicious cookie you’ve never heard of. I’m afraid I don’t know very much about the origins of these cookies. I believe alfajores (I took German, not Spanish, so I can’t tell you how to pronounce it) are a South American treat. Wherever they are from, thank you, because they are the best thing that happen to my cookie loving self.

alfajores

There are a lot of different recipes out there for alfajores. The cookie part changes: sometimes it’s a crispy spice cookie or more of a shortbread like cookie. But the cookie I make is a barely sweeten pie crust sprinkled with a bit of crunchy sugar on top. Between the two little cookies is a big dollop of dulce de leche–a gorgeous confection, addicting in its own right.

Together the flakiness of the cookie and the creaminess of the dulce de leche make a cookie that is homey and sophisticated at the same time, rich but not cloying, sweet with a hint of savory. And, omg, unbelievably good. Now that you are drooling, let’s get to the recipe shall we…

Alfajores

(adapted from Martha Stewart)

for the dulce de leche:

  • two (14 oz) cans sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
  • pinch of coarse salt
alfajores

directions:

  1. Pour condensed milk into a pie plate or shallow baking dish
  2. Mix in salt
  3. Place baking dish into a larger pan. Pour water into the larger pan until it reaches half way up the sides of the baking dish.
  4. Cover the dish tightly with foil.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 1-2 hours. Checking now and again to stir the milk and making sure there is always water in the larger pan.
  6. It will be a beautiful brown and carmelly color when it’s done. There may be lumps, but you can whisk it a bit (or not). When it cool it should be the consistency of creamy peanut butter.

Dulce de leche makes a fine Christmas gift on its own. When it’s hot out of the oven pour into small jars. It keeps for about a month in the fridge.

for the cookies:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Sanding sugar or powdered sugar, for sprinkling

directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar briefly. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

3. With machine running, pour in the water in a slow stream, and process 20 seconds. The dough will probably not come together, but that’s okay. Roll out a length of plastic wrap and put half of the crumbly dough onto it. Wrap it up tightly in the plastic wrap, then with the heel of your hand press the dough 5-10 times until it comes together. Repeat with the other half of cookie dough. Refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

4. Flour your surface and roll out one disk of dough to between 1/4 in and 1/2 in thick. The cookies should be thick, but too thick and you won’t be able to fit the finished cookie in your mouth!

5. Cut out rounds (roundish cutters are best, those stars up there? they fell apart right away) from the dough and transfer to a parchment lined cookie sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough. Gather up your scraps and re-roll, but only re-roll once (they will be tough otherwise).

6. Sprinkle half the rounds with sanding sugar or if you don’t have sanding sugar, sift powdered sugar on half the baked cookies (when cool).

7.Bake until golden brown and a little puffed up, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

8. Spread a heaping teaspoon of dulce de leche on half the cookies. Top with the sugar coated cookie and serve. These cookies are lovely right away, but I like them best the next day when their flavors have melded a bit.

Happy Baking!
Posted in food/recipes.

19 Responses to alfajores

  1. Mary says:

    I believe it’s an Argentine treat. I first tasted them in Buenos Aires where they spread dulce de leche on EVERYTHING! :)

  2. Kathya says:

    Lots of South American countries would love to take the credits for this treat but as a South American myself, i would tell you that they ARE an Argentinian treat. During my last pregnancy here in the US i craved them badly, I look for them online though. Argentina has the best alfajores out there. There is this one specific brand called La Havana or just plain Havana and those are to die for. i might have to try your recipe. Thank you!
    If you live int he US. you may find “real” dulce de leche in the Mexican aisle in the store. brand is La Lechera, i think.

  3. Kathya says:

    When you say…
    1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
    for the cookie dough. this sugar is powdered right? not regular sugar, right? i am doing some googling. i just puzzled because you did describe powdered sugar as powdered sugar in another part of the recipe.

  4. Melania says:

    Oh my goodness, yum! I have great memories of sweet, manjar (caramel)-filled, icing-sugar sprinkled treats everytime we visited family in Chile. These look amazing. My sister has much more of a sweet tooth than I do so I will pass this along to her, thanks for sharing!

  5. Kelly says:

    wow, these look so so good!!

  6. Trish G says:

    I follow your blog and MADE so I saw these the other day had to try them. They were a last minute addition to my Christmas baking. I was a little afraid of them since the dough needs to be rolled and anything I have ever made that had to be rolled failed. The dough turned out good which I was happily surprised about. I think I over-cooked the Dolce De Leche though. It came out pretty lumpy, so lumpy that my husband asked if there was oatmeal in it! Even though it was over-cooked it was delicious and spread on the cookies fine. All I have to say about these cookies is I. Love. Them. Thanks for sharing the recipe! I never would have thought to try these otherwise.

  7. Fiona says:

    Hi! I live in Argentina and found your post through Pinterest. I’m not really sure where Alfajores come from, but we sure eat lots of them in my country. There are many ways to prepare them and they vary from area to area.
    The shop Kathya was talking about is called ‘Havanna’ and it does have excellent alfajores, although not my personal favourites.
    Another way to prepare Dulce de Leche with condensed milk is the following:
    You fill a pot with water and make it boil. Then you place a can of condensed milk (closed and without the label on) inside the pot, the can must be placed standing up right and it must be covered by the water. You set the fire to medium and let it cook for 3 hours. Then you let it cool down completely and voila!
    It takes longer to prepare but won’t have any lumps in it.
    Hope this is usefull.
    Best regars and Merry Christmas from down South!

  8. Ali H says:

    Prounounced “Alfa-horay”! Or, Alfahorays in plural, hehe. These look insane, I have to try them next year, omg dipped in hot tea? Forget about it.

  9. Wendy says:

    My husband is from Peru and we have them at just about every special occasion. When I make them I like to try different fillings. Once I made them with a raspberry filling and those were my favorite. My in-laws would probably tell you that I had committed a carnal sin doing so if they found out lol.

  10. Kati says:

    Yum! Thanks for sharing! I gorged on alfajores dipped in coffee while living in Chile. Covering them in chocolate is also particularly decadent ;)

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  12. These are my favorite cookie. They are an Argentine treat– my father was the only one of his brothers born here in the U.S.! Every holiday we have these little treats with our holiday desserts. Thank you for a new recipe!

  13. Thanks for the great recipe and how-to! Hope you’re back in your blog space soon. I miss you!

  14. Anna says:

    My husband is Chilean and his family have them all the time too. Yum. They also havechoc dipped ones and another version coated in meringue. All are good :)

  15. Rebecca says:

    I was extremely thrilled when I saw this recipe posted! My husband lived in Uruguay for two years and this was one of his favorite treats! I can’t wait to make them for him, and add this to my recipe book.

  16. Sherpa says:

    Funny, of course the Argentines lay claim to alfajores. That’s how they operate. Not to diss on Argentines (I lived in South America for a couple of years) but they are the Texans of South America. Anyway, they are a South American treat-and are turning into a Latin American treat.

    • Amparo says:

      Sherpa, you are so right! That´s how we operate! jajajajaj -shame on us…- Really, alfajores are the most popular and traditional treat here in Argentina. Havanna and Cachafaz, are maybe the best, but there are lots of them, with different fillings and textures. Everybody should taste one at least once in their lives.

      A.

  17. [...] into a baker extraordinaire-well not really but I kind of felt like it after making homemade a Dulce de Leche(from Elsie Marley) and these super yummy Hazelnut Nutella thumbprint cookies oh and Nutella Fudge (yeah I think I [...]