The first time I had an alfajor cookie was at our local tacqueria. Two thin shortbread cookies with that mellow caramel, dulce de leche, in between, rolled in powdered sugar (as if it weren’t already sweet enough). It was soooo decadent and delicious. As is my usual, I thought, “I can make these”. But, finding a recipe was difficult. And, seemingly, there are several different varieties of alfajores depending on the country of origin.
There are cookies that are more crumbly, others that are more crisp. There are those that are flat, others that are domed. Alfajores can also be rolled in shredded coconut on the edges, instead of powdered sugar. I’ve seen recipes for the cookies to be dipped in dark chocolate. One can use dulce de leche made from cow’s milk, or the kind made from goat’s milk (cajeta). Many recipes use a lot of cornstarch, and little flour – perhaps because corn is such a staple of South America. Then there is also a Spanish variety that is not a cookie at all, but a candy made of almonds, sugar and spices. I received some Spanish alfajores as a gift last year when I was in recuperation mode.
The alfajores cookies that I like best are simple, thin shortbread cookies, with the dulce de leche in the middle, and have been coated in confectioner’s sugar. They crumble and melt in your mouth, at the same time. If you eat them right away, the shortbread is at once crisp, light and crumbly, and the creamy dulce de leche is discernible on its own. Left in an airtight container, the sweet milk caramel is absorbed a bit and the cookies take on a sugary oneness all their own.
L offered to make them for an end of the year Spanish class party. We had a great time making the cookies, filling them and, while still warm, dipping them in the bowl of powdered sugar. I can’t believe the number of times that I had to send L back to the sink to wash her hands – fingers were being licked as the confectioners sugar formed a sort of icing crust on her fingers that was a little too irresistable for her.
Here is how we made them.
makes about 50, 1 1/2-inch, sandwich cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup (approx.) dulce de leche
1 cup confectioners sugar
In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix softened butter, granulated sugar, salt and vanilla together. DO NOT CREAM – only mix until combined. Add the flour and cornstarch. Mix at medium speed until the dough starts to come together.
Cut two long sheets of wax paper (or parchment). Put 1/2 of the dough onto 1 sheet of wax paper and form into a log, about 1 1/4-inch diameter. Roll up in the wax paper and refrigerate. Repeat with the remaining dough and the second sheet of wax paper. Chill until firm enough to cut evenly without squishing the dough.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Put the cup of confectioners sugar into a shallow bowl.
Cut the dough in 1/8-1/4 inch slices and place about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges of the cookies have started to get a pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes.
Spread about 1 teaspoon of dulce de leche on the bottom of a cookie and top with another cookie (the bottoms of both cookies should be facing the dulce de leche). Press the cookies together so that the caramel comes to the edge of the sandwich. Put the cookie sandwich into the bowl of confectioners sugar. Turn to coat. Place the coated cookie onto a cooling rack. Repeat with the rest of the cookies and dulce de leche.
Cool completely. Store in an airtight container. You can freeze the cookies for later consumption….if you can wait.