Love at first bite. That is the only way I can describe my relationship with alfajores. A colleague brought back a box of famous Havana Alfajores from a recent mission. An alfajor is a shortbread cookie sandwich filled with dulce de leche. The shortbread cookies are so light and airy they crumble in your mouth. The dulce de leche is so incredibly sweet and creamy. To die for, literally.
A few days later, at an office happy hour, I spotted another alfajor. This one wasn't dipped in chocolate, rather covered in coconut. Alfajores differ throughout Latin America, and even though I love, love, love chocolate, I actually prefer the coconut alfajor. I think the integrity and quality of the cookie and dulce de leche are portrayed much better without being smothered in chocolate. Sorry chocolate, I still love you, promise!
My first reaction after I had my first alfajor, was "I can totally make this". So. Here is my attempt.
Dulce de leche is carmelized sweetened condensed milk. You can either boil a can sweetened condensed milk in boiling water on the stove, or you can bake the milk in a double boiler in the oven, covered in tinfoil. This is the route I chose because I read some horror stories about cans of sweetened condensed milk exploding all over the kitchen. I made a double batch of dulce de leche, so I baked two cans of sweetened condensed milk tightly covered in tinfoil placed inside a double boiler in the oven at 425*. In order to get the milk super caramelized, it took about 5 hours in the oven. That was a little bit of a shocker. Double batch=double time.
The short bread cookie was considerably less time consuming, but more labor intensive.
Short Bread Cookies Ingredients:
The cornstarch is key to this recipe and is what makes the cookies crumble in your mouth. To make the cookies, cream the butter and sugar. Add in the egg yolk and vanilla and incorporate everything. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cornstarch and baking powder together. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and continue mixing until it forms a consistent dough. Divide the dough into two balls and wrap them in plastic. Refrigerate the dough for at least an hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350*. Unwrap the dough and roll it out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut the dough with a small round cutter. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment-paper and bake for 15 minutes, just until the edges start to brown.
Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool completely. Place a tablespoon of ducle de leche (I made extra remember!) on the bottom of one cookie and make a sandwich with another cookie. Roll the edges in toasted coconut.
Or melt semi-sweet chocolate in a double-boiler and dip the alfajores gently in chocolate with two forks. Tap the excess chocolate from the cookie sandwich and place on parchment-paper to dry.
And there you have it. Homemade alfajores! Yum, I'm getting hungry. Again.
Breakfast anyone? Yes please!
Make these. Now.