If you haven’t tried an alfajor yet (pronounced alpha-hor – for English Speakers) stop reading this now (seriously) and try one immediately if you can find one =). It really doesn’t matter where you buy one. Yes the mmm-factor varies widely, but if you have never had an alfajor, now is the time to go out on a quest.
An alfajor, in its simplest form, is two cookies with dulce de leche sandwiched between. There are many different variations (coated in chocolate or meringue, different fillings, etc), but I prefer to keep it simple with an alfajor de maicena (cornstarch). Cornstarch in a cookie, one might ask? Most certainly, I would answer. It’s what gives the cookies that melt-in-your-mouth effect. The cornstarch, in combination with the dulce de leche center, means that when you take a bite of an alfajor it crumbles on your tongue and slowly melts away, leaving you wondering why every cookie recipe doesn’t call for some cornstarch.
I finally made an attempt at homemade alfajores and the result was delicious (again, I firmly believe there are no bad alfajores). Here is a basic recipe that is bound to have you cooking your own in no time. This set of proportions will leave you with a crumbly cookie, which I prefer, but there are plenty of other recipes out there that will give you a more cake-like consistency.
Alfajores de Maicena
Recipe courtesy of Rebecca Caro at FromArgentinaWithLove.com
These cookies are delicious with coffee or tea, dipped in chocolate or covered in powdered sugar, but they are also lovely just on their own. They will last for several days in a container in the fridge with a tight-fitting lid. The dough may also be frozen for future use.
2 sticks of butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg plus 1 yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-2 cups dulce de leche (homemade or store-bought, either works)
powdered sugar (optional)
Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and the sugar. Add in the egg plus yolk and vanilla and beat over medium speed until incorporated. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cornstarch and baking powder together. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and continue mixing until it forms a consistent dough. Remove the dough from the mixer and divide it into two balls. Wrap the balls in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least half an hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Unwrap the dough and roll it out (it will be cold and stiff at first) onto a floured surface. Roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness, then cut with a small round cutter (or a juice glass). Repeat the rolling and cutting until you have used all the dough. Place the cookies on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet, and bake for 15 minutes, just until the edges start to brown.
Let the cookies cool completely, then place a generous dollop of dulce de leche on one cookie, topping with another cookie to make a sandwich. Press gently together. Cover in sifted powdered sugar or roll the edges in coconut, if desired.