This past week my family celebrated Greek Independence Day and the amount of national pride and love for culture set me off to find a cultural piece to post on. You may wonder why I didn’t choose a Greek dish and I admit I did contemplate doing so but then again that would be exposing family heirloom recipes and I thought the better of it out of respect. So I ended up stumbling on a little gem out of Argentina. Like the popularity of the Oreo in America, Alfajores are practically Argentina’s national cookie. They have been a part of Argentinian culture since the 19th century and to this day Argentina remains the world’s largest consumer of Alfajores as they are a common snack for kids and adults alike.
In doing my research I was quick to find the millions of variations to this cookie. Variations span all across the Latin American countries as well as overseas in Spain (although the Spanish version is of little resemblance to this recipe to the point you want to question they are at all related). The most common type of Alfajores start with two soft cookies and are sandwiched with a decadent dollop of dulce de leche (a Latin American style caramel). Just the dulce de leche alone is enough reason why this is probably the chosen common variation. I chose to prepare this version and also a version where the cookie is finished off by rolling in toasted coconut. Other common alternatives include dusting the cookie sandwich with confectioners’ sugar, coating in dark or white chocolate, or going as far as to ditch the dulce de leche for jam or mousse. I personally prefer the dulce de leche and that is why you will find it here.
Like the Oreo has its milk, the Alfajor is often paired with morning coffee or tea but why limit them to mornings when they make a great afternoon snack or dessert after dinner. One bite and you will quickly understand why they are so popular. Don’t be alarmed by the high amount of cornstarch in this recipe. It is necessary for the cookie to have its signature, slightly cakey texture. In fact, the traditional dulce de leche recipe for Alfajores has been on the back of cornstarch boxes in Argentina for years. If you decide to try the Alfajores with coconut, make sure to toast the coconut until it starts to turn golden brown. This brings out its nutty flavor. You can certainly fill the cookies in this recipe with anything you have on hand but if you want the traditional Argentinian style make sure you use dulce de leche. You won’t regret it I swear. You can find dulce de leche in the baking aisle or Ethnic aisle of most supermarkets. This recipe will yield you approximately 1 ½ dozen cookies. The cookies can be stored at room temperature for 3 days. Enjoy :)
- 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 cup Cornstarch
- 1 tbsp. Baking Powder
- Pinch of Salt
- 14 tbsp. (1 ¾ sticks) Unsalted Butter; softened
- 1 cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 2 Eggs
- 1 ¼ cups Dulce de Leche
- 1 cup Sweetened Shredded Coconut; toasted
- Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions before pre-heating the oven to 375°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or grease pans with nonstick cooking spray.
- Combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until just combined. Add the eggs and mix until well incorporated. Add the flour mixture and continue to beat until combined. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate until slightly firm, about 30 minutes.
- Roll tablespoon amounts of dough into round balls. Place the dough balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake the cookies until the edges begin to turn golden, about 12 minutes. Be sure to rotate sheets halfway through the baking time so they cook evenly. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
- Spread 1 tablespoon of dulce de leche on the bottom half of each cookie. Top with the remaining cookies to form a sandwich and press down gently to push some of the dulce de leche to the cookie edges. Roll the sides of the cookie in the toasted coconut, pressing gently to adhere. Serve.
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