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Argentina is known the world over for the quality of its steaks, and having spent four months studying Spanish there when I was fresh out of law school, I can attest that Argentinians are obsessed with meat.
Their steaks weigh over two pounds each, and grown men are ridiculed if they so much as think about ordering the 'chica' version (still close to a pound of meat).
But if there's one thing Argentinians obsess about even more than meat, it's dulce de leche. This confection, not unlike the French confiture de lait, finds its way into medialunas (the Argentinians' answer to French croissants), into numerous ice cream flavors, onto all dessert menus, and into my favorite Argentinian cookies: alfajores.
More: Making your own dulce de leche at home takes only milk, sugar, and a little time.
At their most basic, Argentinean alfajores are nothing more than cookies made from two flat disks of melt-in-your-mouth rich and buttery shortbread that are sandwiched together with a dollop of dulce de leche. Sometimes they are also rolled in coconut or dipped in white or dark chocolate.
However they are served, alfajores are the perfect sweet antidote to the rather strong and dark coffee young Argentineans drink all day long as an attempt to keep their eyes open at work despite a social life that does not seem to provide for much shut-eye.
More: Do like the Argentineans do, and brew better coffee.
Sadly, alfajores have not yet made the jump across the continents and into European or American grocery stores. But instead of waiting for airfares to Argentina to miraculously drop, the quickest and easiest way to enjoy alfajores is to make a batch at home. Here's how you can do it.
Makes 12 cookies
100 grams (about 7 tablespoons) butter, soft
40 grams powdered sugar
75 grams cornstarch
75 grams all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons dulce de leche
Cream the soft butter together with the powdered sugar until the mixture is fluffy. If your butter is very soft already, this should take no more than a couple of minutes with a handheld mixer.
Whisk together the cornstarch and the all-purpose flour, then combine it with the butter and sugar using a large wooden spoon until the dough starts coming together into a ball.
Briefly knead the dough to ensure that all of the ingredients are well mixed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, flatten it into a disk, and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.
Preheat the oven to 350° F (175° C) and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Place the disk of dough on a floured surface, dust it with some extra flour, then carefully roll the dough out to a thickness of no more than 5 millimeters (less than 1/4 inch).
Using a 5 centimeter (2 inch) round cookie cutter, cut out 24 cookies (you will have to re-roll the dough a couple of times to do this), and place the dough circles on the prepared sheet pan, leaving about 1 centimeter (about 1/2 inch) of space between the cookies.
Place the sheet pan in the fridge for approximately 10 minutes, so that the cookies can firm up.
Bake them for 12 minutes, or until they’re just starting to color around the edges. Leave the cookies to cool.
Once they’re at room temperature, top half of the cookies with dulce de leche, using about 1 teaspoon on each one. Then sandwich those cookies with the plain ones.
As you press the cookies together, carefully rotate the two cookies in opposite directions, which will help spread the dulce de leche all the way to the edge of the cookies.
Photos by Sophia Real