Alfajores

by Matt on July 30, 2007

Alfajor1_2

Chris
On our last trip to Argentina I was lucky enough to celebrate my
birthday surrounded by great company and excellent food. I ate myself
into oblivion, and upon returning to our hotel for a nightcap (god I
love that word!
) I discovered a little treat waiting for me from the
staff. It turned out that Christian, our charming server
extraordinaire, brought over a glass of champagne and a small treat set
on a gorgeous small white plate. It was a treat I had never seen before.

"This is from me to you and I wish you a very happy birthday! It’s an Alfajor, a treat I’ve loved since I was a little boy."

After
fighting back a few stray tears (I cry a lot when I’m happy, if you
haven’t figured that out), I picked up this weighty cookie, rotated it
and gave it a good inspection and realized I was holding two crisp
cookies that were sandwiched around a thick layer of dulce de leche.

Everyone
stood around waiting for me to take a bite, almost as if I was tied to
some stake in the town square and the only way I’d be set free would be
from my reaction to the cookie. Frown and I’d be immolated, or smile
and toss outs some "oohs" and "ahhhs" and I’d be the town hero.

I took a bite.

"Do you like it?" Christian asked.

"Do I like it? Do I like it? Are you crazy?" I responded.

And that is how I fell in love with Alfajores.

The
Alfajor, also known as a Caramel Sandwich Cookie, is a traditional
Latin American cookie although you’ll find a variation of it in Spain
that’s usually served during Christmas. Two round biscuits are spread
with dulce de leche and sprinkled with powdered sugar. The premise
changes a bit depending on the country, and some varieties are rolled
in coconut, chopped peanuts, or dipped in chocolate. There’s even a
luscious black and white Alfajor.

Just recently our friend
Francine sent us a jar of Dulce De Leche from Uruguay. After spending a
year in Montevideo she and her husband moved back to Southern
California and she found herself with an extra jar of
mymostfavoritethingontheentireplanet. She didn’t want it to go to waste
so she sent it to us, along with a few Alfajores from Uruguay.
(Francine, you’re crazy for parting with it but I wasn’t about to talk
you out of it, tú sabes….)
I took a bite of this softer variety,
looked at the jar, took another bite, looked at the jar again, and the
idea hit me: make alfajores! Or, have Adam make alfajores!

Never
one to ignore a challenge, Adam whipped up a batch of his orange
cookies, this time omitting the orange juice so that the flavor
wouldn’t complete with that caramelly, rich taste of the dulce de
leche. He scooped up some sticky dulce de leche into a piping bag,
carefully placed dollops onto the underside of the cookie, topped it
with another cookie and voila! An Alfajor was born. A little sprinkle
of cinnamon and powdered sugar sent them over the edge, and by the end
of the day all but 6 cookies were gone. In our defense we had people
over for lunch, but that’s not saying I wouldn’t have eaten them all by
myself anyway. Cuz I totally would have.

Alfajor2

Alfajores a la Adam

You’ll find alfajores made with a crispier
cookie, you’ll even find them made with cornmeal and molasses. However,
I like a soft cookie and I’m not afraid to say it, damnit. And
everything that bothered my self-critical Adam about his version– the
cookies were too soft, the tops were too sticky, the filling oozed out
too fast–were the things I went bonkers over, so it just goes to show
you…um, I don’t know what it goes to show you now that I think about
it. Let’s just eat cookies and call it a day.

Ingredients
1 1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup shortening (Earth Balance makes a non-hydrogenated version, hot damn!)
2 unbeaten eggs
3 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method
Cream together the sugar,  shortening and the unbeaten
eggs. Add flour, salt and baking powder. Mix the milk and vanilla
extract and then add to the flour mixture. Drop by rounded tablespoon
onto a greased cookie sheet or a baking pan lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-14 minutes, depending on oven. Keep an eye
on them, cook until the edges are light brown. The cookies will be
extremely soft and will need a few minutes to rest and firm.

To assemble the alfajores, place a dollop of dulce de leche on the
bottom of the cookie and top with another cookie. Sprinkle with
powdered sugar and enjoy until your tummy hurts.