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Flour Girl: Alfajores My Way


Alfajores. (James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)

I was introduced to alfajores while traveling in Argentina years ago. Of course, Argentinians claim them as their own culinary treasure, but I found other Latin countries do so as well. The large sandwich cookies are filled with dulce de leche (caramel) and enjoyed as a substantial snack with tea or coffee.

Recipe Included

The most commonly sold and exported Argentinian brand is Havanna. They are slightly caky and coated with a very thin icing. Most of the ones I've tasted in the States at coffee shops are a different animal. They are buttery, flat sandwich cookies with nothing but a sprinkling of confectioners' sugar.

When I started searching for a recipe, I would have been happy with either version.

They are different, but I like them both. I stopped my hunt once I made the delicious creations pictured above. They are of the thin-and-buttery persuasion. In fact, the shortbread-style cookies are perfection on their own. For cookie exchange season, you could get more from a batch by making them smaller and filling them with jam or chocolate or whatever you like. (I happened to have leftover cinnamon-cream cheese frosting and some homemade caramel that I blended to use as an unconventional filling.)

Also, because the cookies don't spread when baked, you can use the dough for more detailed cut-out cookies. Very versatile.

If you go traditional with the filling, you can find dulce de leche in the international aisles of many well-stocked grocery stores.

I don't often go to the trouble of rolling out cookie dough, but these are worth the effort.

-- Leigh Lambert

Alfajores
Makes about fifteen 3-inch sandwich cookies

Dulce de leche can be found at most Latin markets and on the international aisle of well-stocked grocery stores.

MAKE AHEAD: The cookie dough can be refrigerated for 1 week. If the dough is thoroughly chilled, allow it to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling it out. The unfilled baked cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 days. Filled cookies are best eaten day the same day they are assembled, but can be kept at room temperature for 2 days.

Adapted from a recipe at www.christmas-cookies.com.

For the cookies
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at a cool room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
1/3cup ground almonds
1/4teaspoon salt
1/2teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4teaspoon almond extract

For assembly
2 cups dulce de leche (see headnote)

For the cookies: Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat on low speed to combine, then on high speed for 5 to 7 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Whisk together the flour, ground almonds and salt in a separate bowl.
Add the vanilla and almond extracts to the butter-sugar mixture. Beat on medium speed, then reduce the speed to low and gradually add the flour-almond mixture just until incorporated; do not overmix the dough.

Wrap the dough in wax paper or place it in a large resealable plastic food storage bag and flatten it out. Refrigerate for 1 hour. If the dough is chilled longer, let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling it out.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have 2 ungreased baking sheets at hand and a 3-inch-round cookie cutter.

Lightly flour a work surface. Roll out the dough to thickness of 1/4 inch. (You can do this in batches, keeping the unworked portion refrigerated.) Use the 3-inch round cookie cutter for the cookies; repeat as needed to make 30 rounds of dough. The cookies will not spread so you can place them close together. Bake one sheet at a time in the middle of the oven for about 13 minutes. The cookies will not appear browned. For a nuttier, browned butter flavor, bake the cookies for a few extra minutes; watch them carefully.
Let cool on the baking sheet for about 15 minutes before transfering to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble: Invert half of the cookies on the work surface. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the dulce de leche on each upturned cookie. The filling will spread as it sits, but you can smooth it to the edges if it is very thick. Be gentle when spreading. Too much pressure on the delicate cookies will break them.

Top with the remaining cookies to form cookie sandwiches.

Per cookie sandwich: 415 calories, 5 g protein, 53 g carbohydrates, 20 g fat, 14 g saturated fat, 59 mg cholesterol, 87 mg sodium, 1g dietary fiber, 29 g sugar

By Leigh Lambert  |  October 15, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Flour Girl , Recipes  | Tags: Flour Girl, Leigh Lambert, cookies, recipes  
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