Alfajores

In this classic shortbread sandwich cookie with recipe excerpted from La Latina, chef Grace Ramirez presents her version of Argentine alfajores.

At first glance, the alfajor is entirely unassuming — one might even pass it up for something with chocolate chips or frosting. This would be a grave mistake. There’s good reason that this shortbread cookie defines the café scene in Argentina and Uruguay, with entire establishments devoted to it all across Latin America. It’s a melt-in-your-mouth cookie that’s sandwiched together with dulce de leche (milk-based caramel). There are many versions of alfajores enjoyed all over Central and South America, but the best ones — in my humble opinion — are those baked with cornstarch. Try these alongside mate at your next afternoon tea and be transported to Buenos Aires!” – Grace Ramirez


Reproduced with permission from La Latina, by Grace Ramirez. Published by Random House (NZ). Text copyright ©Grace Ramirez, 2015. Photographs copyright ©Garth Badger, 2015. Click here to purchase your own copy. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 3/4 cup plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 115 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon pisco or brandy*
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)

Dulce de Leche (makes 1 cup)

  • 340 gram can sweetened condensed mil

Makes 12 cookies

PREPARATION

  1. In a large bowl, whisk corn starch, plain flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together until just combined. Set aside.
  2. Place butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix until light in color and fluffy; about 3–4 minutes. Add egg yolks, pisco or brandy and vanilla, and mix until incorporated; about 30 seconds.
  3. Turn mixer to low speed and gradually add the flour mixture. Mix until just incorporated; about 30–60 seconds. Remove dough from bowl and form into a smooth round disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour until firm.
  4. Meanwhile, make dulce de leche. Pour sweetened condensed milk into the top of a double-boiler pan, and cover. Place over simmering water. Cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 40–50 minutes or until thick and colored light caramel. Remove from heat and beat with a whisk until smooth. Leave to cool to room temperature.
  5. Preheat oven to 180°C and arrange a rack in the middle. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
  6. Remove dough from refrigerator, unwrap and place on a lightly floured surface, or between two large pieces of non-stick baking paper. Roll dough out to 1/2 centimeter thick, and stamp out 24 rounds using a plain or fluted 58 millimeter cookie cutter. Re-roll the dough scraps until all of it is used. The dough may crack, but can be easily patched back together.
  7. Place 12 cookies on each baking tray, at least 3 centimeters apart. Bake until cookies are firm but still pale; 12–14 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.
  8. Flip half the cookies upside down. Spread about 2 teaspoons of dulce de leche on each. Place a second cookie on top and gently press to create a sandwich. If using the shredded coconut, spread on a plate, and roll each cookie sideways through the coconut so that it sticks to the dulce de leche. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

* Chef’s note: You can use triple sec or extra vanilla extract in place of the pisco or brandy. It’s time-consuming making your own dulce de leche as well as the cookies, so you can use store-bought — it’s just as good.

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