Alfajores: Caramel-Filled Cookies


A traditional confection found primarily in the Southern Cone (Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile) and Peru, the alfajor arrived in South America by way of the Spanish. Though hailing from the Iberian peninsula, its roots reach back to the Arab culture, which infiltrated Spain many centuries ago.

In South America alfajores are a favorite sweet treat consumed for dessert and as a snack. The fillings and toppings can vary, with the base recipe being two cookies sandwiching a generous spoonful of milk caramel. Inside, they may include marzipan, jams, and chocolate in addition to the caramel. On the top, sifted powdered sugar, chocolate coating, grated coconut, and even meringue are options.

Easy and fun to make, these cookies can be frozen to enjoy at any time.

Yields 2 dozen

Ingredients:
½ cup butter, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup cornstarch
1½ cups dulce de leche
1 cup grated coconut

Directions:
In a bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy; incorporate vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Add flour, baking powder, and cornstarch in batches. Let dough rest at least 5 hours.

Roll dough to ¼-inch thickness and stamp out 2-inch-rounds. Bake at 350ºF on greased tray until golden. Let cool.

Evenly spread 1 tablespoon caramel on a cookie. Top with another cookie. Press gently to join. Use your index finger to spread caramel on edges. Press sides in grated coconut.

Make Cookie Dough:
* Use a standing mixer or a bowl and a wooden spoon to make the dough.
* Jog the machine to slowly incorporate the ingredients.
* If the dough is slightly sticky, add a little more flour, by the ¼ cup, until it is soft and elastic.
* Let dough rest refrigerated, wrapped with plastic.


Fill with Dulce de Leche:
* Use a knife to evenly spread the milk caramel. Leave a little room around the edges to press down.
* Press firmly to spread the caramel evenly.
* Instead of grated coconut, you can cover the cookies with melted dark or milk chocolate. Let cool on a tray.
* Freeze the alfajores for up to a month.

Milk caramel is consumed throughout South America. The basic recipe consists of milk boiled down with sugar to create a creamy, sweet paste. Many cakes, cookies, and desserts incorporate the caramel. In Argentina and Uruguay, it is known as dulce de leche and aromatized with vanilla. Chileans consume manjar, varying from a tan color and thin consistency to traditional white vain the south. Order Dulce de leche online or at well-stocked grocers.

Variation: Dark Chocolate Covered Alfajores
* Beat ½ cup butter, ¾ cup sugar until creamy; incorporate 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1 whole egg, and 1 egg yolk.
* Add 1 cup flour and 1 cup cornstarch. Knead until smooth; rest overnight. Roll cookies to ¼-inch thick; stamp out 2-inch rounds.
* Bake at 350ºF on greased tray until golden; cool. Spread 1 tablespoon caramel on cookie, top with another. Press gently to join.
* In a bain-Marie (a double boiler), melt ½ pound dark chocolate. Place cookies on a wire rack cover with chocolate. Let cool.

Editor’s note: This recipe is from Liz’s book Knack South American Cooking, by Globe Pequot Press. To learn more about Liz’s culinary and wine tours in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay, visit Caskey Culinary & Wine Experiences at www.lizcaskey.com.

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