Day 21: Alfajores

No matter how many treats are passed around by neighbors and friends during the holidays, I never get sick of it. I usually pick out the sugar cookies first (one of my favorites) and toffee comes in a close second. But I’m totally game for a new sweet thrown in the mix. And holy moly, if I ever walked into a kitchen that looked like this, I’d skip lunch and dinner and consume as much sugar as possible (and take a vitamin supplement on the side):
They’re all from Meg at Elsie Marley. I just love her blog! The raw photos, creative ideas, Kids Clothes Week Challenge. And when it comes to Christmas, she doesn’t just bake, she bakes. That photo says it all. And today she’s sharing a cookie that’s totally new to me! But not to my husband who lived in South America years ago. Alfajores? he piped up (pronounced al-fa-hoar in the singular or al-fa-hoar-ace in plural). Mmmmm.
So let’s hear from Meg…..
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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: 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 in school, 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.
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)
Makes about 2 1/2-3 dozen

For the Dulce de Leche:
– (2) 14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
– pinch of coarse salt
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/ 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!
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Okay, I’m sold.
Totally making these.
And why is this the first year I’ve started using Sweetened Condensed Milk? What a treat!
Thank you Meg for sharing your cookie kitchen with us! For Meg’s other cookie recipes click here.
Check out the Sweets and Treats archive page HERE.

  1. 1) Bruna Cirelli Aanestad

    Hi!
    I just found you while random-surfing the net (ok might have been through someone’s Pinterest! Lol), and I love your blog! Been reading all of it and suddenly BANG! Aflajores?! Are you kidding me??? It’s the most delicious thing on Earth! :))
    I’m Brazilian (half Italian) and yes, you’re right: it’s from South America. But from our neighbor, Argentina. It could totally have some Spanish routes, but as far as I know, it’s Argentinian. All my childhood, my italian grandfather used to travel a lot to Argentina (my uncle lived there for some years), and he would always, ALWAYS bring me BOXES of Alfajores. Hmmmm, that tastes like childhood, and dreams, and my lovely grandparents… <3
    Anyways. In case you still wonder how to pronounce it, it's "alfaHores". The "J" is just like the Mexicans say in "Jose", you know what I mean? "Ho-seh"? Haha. Hope that makes sense. And I will HAVE to try this recipe……. Have you ever had the chocolate ones? The white ones are covered with that powder sugar, while the chocolate ones are covered in, well, chocolate. šŸ˜› In-freaking-sane! šŸ˜€ And they also have some "drops" ("goats") made of chocolate, filled with creamy dulce-de-leche….. Ohmygoodness.
    I haven't read your recipe yet, but the best, closest to real, dulce de leche you can find in the US (to my very picky knowledge, but I'm open to anything!) is an easy, do-it-yourself recipe I swear by…
    You get a can of sweet condensed milk (at Walmart, Target, wherever) and cook it, the whole can, in a pressure pan (filled with water, of course lol), for about 30-40 min. Or in a regular pan, but I'm not sure how long it will take.. The best thing about this recipe is, you control the consistency and the color, the "done…ness" of it, by letting it cook for longer or shorter time. Hmmmmm, yummy. But the "right" color would be…. Like a toffee caramel color. Maybe a slightly tiny bit darker. And the darker, the harder, too. Gee, my mouth is watering! šŸ™‚
    Congrats with the baby, wish you the best, from me a line if you wanna know more about the Alfajores, and I'll be following you here – and on Pinterest! šŸ˜‰
    Hugs!

    • 2) Bruna Cirelli Aanestad

      “drop” me a line… So many typos!

  2. 3) Bruna Cirelli Aanestad

    PS: just checked your dulce de leche pics and the color looks perfect! That’s exactly it! Yummy! šŸ˜‰

    Now I couldn’t resist and HAD to show you THE original Alfajores… The most famous brand (the real, original) is called Havanna. I cannot resist and just have to order some for me! And I seriously encourage to get some too – you’ll never be the same hehehe. šŸ˜‰

    http://www.havanna.com.ar/

  3. 4) Bruna Cirelli Aanestad

    Drops = GOTAS, not goats! šŸ˜›
    “Autocorrect” here. Lol. Sorry.

  4. 5) Lilly

    My mom makes the dulce de leche sauce another way. 1)Take the paper off the dulce de leche sauce and add to a pot 2)cover with water and boil for 1 hour refilling the pot with water if it evaporates too quickly. 3)let the cans cool for a couple hours and open.

  5. 6) Jassy

    We do that too. Literally just boil the sealed cans for 2-4 hours. The longer you cook, the darker and thicker it gets. I’ve done it many many times in my life.

  6. 7) Jacinta

    Note to self: do NOT make dulce de leche with the intention of making the cookies later….you will eat most of the caramel before then :/

  7. 8) Maria

    That reminds me a lot of bem casados

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