Sunday, November 18, 2012

Alfajores - Peruvian Sandwich Cookies

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Alfajores are shortbread sandwich cookies that are held together with a spoonful of dulce de leche, a thick, milk-based caramel sauce. They are much loved in Spain and South America, but nowhere are they more popular than in Peru where they can be found in lowland coastal cities as well as those in the heights of the Andes. No collection of Peruvian recipes would be complete without them. I never dreamed that I'd have a problem making these cookies. As it turned out, it took three attempts to make shortbread cutouts that would not crumble when the cookies were filled. Fortunately, I found a workable recipe for alfajores on A Taste of Peru. The recipe was developed by Penelope Alzamora and it included directions for making the dulce de leche that's used to sandwich the cookies together. I'm passing her instructions on for you those of you who want to make the cookies completely from scratch. I cheat a bit these days and use commercially prepared dulce de leche. Years ago, I slowly simmered cans of sweetened condensed to make it, but, do to fear of exploding cans, that method is no longer approved and I would feel uncomfortable recommending it to you. I think you will enjoy the alfajores. The shortbread is barely sweet and almost bland, but the dulce de leche perks everything up and adds the sweetness you've come to expect in a cookie. Here's how they are made.

Alfajores...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of A Taste of Peru


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup confectioner’ sugar, plus more for sifting
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour, or more if needed
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup dulce de leche
Dulce de Leche
4 cups of milk
2 cups of sugar
1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1) To make dulce de leche:  In a heavy 4-quart saucepan mix together  milk, sugar, vanilla bean (if using), and baking soda and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce  heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking. As it begins to thicken, stir constantly and cook until caramel-colored and so  thick  that you can see  bottom of  pan as you stir; this will take about 1 hour. If using vanilla extract, add it at this point. Remove from heat and let cool. Cover and refrigerate.
2) To make alfajores:  In a large mixing bowl, cream  butter and confectioners sugar together until smooth. Beat in  egg yolks. Add  zest and vanilla extract and mix well. Sift  flour and baking powder, then mix into  butter mixture to make a dough that is soft but not runny. If it is too soft, add some more flour. If it is too stiff add water by spoonfuls until soft dough is formed. Turn into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large cookie sheet. On a lightly floured work surface, roll  dough out to 1/8 inch thick and cut into 1-1/2-inch rounds. Place on  prepared cookie sheet and bake until set, about 10 minutes; the cookies should not color at all.  Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool. Spread one cookie with dulce de leche and press a second cookie on top.  Sift confectioners' sugar over top.  If desired, spread dulce de leche around  sides of  cookie and roll in  grated coconut, chopped chocolate or nuts. Repeat with remaining cookies and dulce de leche. Yield: 24 alfahores.

One Year Ago Today: Peanut Butter Gooey Butter Cake

Two Years Ago Today: Aloo Matar Rasedaa - Curried Peas and Potatoes

Three Years Ago Today: Pfeffernusse


What's Baking?? said...

Wish I could taste it..a wonderful day to you, Mary.

Alessandra said...

I love them, my favourite are the Argentinian ones (especially if covered with chocolate too, but I love this Peruvian version too!

Have a good Sunday


Alessandra said...

I love them, my favourite are the Argentinian ones (especially if covered with chocolate too, but I love this Peruvian version too!

Have a good Sunday


Angie's Recipes said...

wow you cooked dulce de leche from the scratch. That's AWESOME!
These cookies look fabulous!

Diane said...

I have never heard of dulce de leche, a new one on me! Can I pop over and have a taste these sandwich cookies sound very interesting. Have a good day. Diane

Alicia Foodycat said...

These look really good! I have a Swiss recipe for shortbread cookies that gives a similar amount of grief - the slightest hint of heat or moisture and they just fall apart.

Unknown said...

Looks so tasty...just loved them..

safire said...

I've never had this but it looks amazing!!

Anonymous said...

I will enjoy making these very much! I'm a little nervous making the caramel though, I can see this sticking!!!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Oh I love alfahores and a friend, whose boyfriend is Peruvian makes wonderful ones, but declined to give me the recipe. So glad to see these on your site.


That cookie ... looks amazing.


Brittany said...

So much sugary goodness, even with your year ago, two year ago and three year ago posts! YUM!

sara said...

The depth of your food & recipe knowledge never ceases to amaze me! I love reading your blog. said...

Oh the lovely dulce the leche and these alfajores are "a perfect bite".

Leigh Caroline said...

Note for anyone who thinks substituting soy creamer: Don't. I tried it and it wouldn't thicken up. Still made a very yummy caramel sauce, but it didn't get thick enough to use as a filling. :)

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