Alfajores – a holiday baking idea from The Foodie Handbook

Sugaredalfajores 

Here's another recipe from my new book I'd like to share, and this is just the perfect time for it.  Aren't we all thinking about holiday baking these days?  Ok, if you're in Northern California you must be thinking freezing weather too – you've heard all the complaints on twitter I'm sure – so, what better than baking for an excuse to turn on your oven and warm up the house?

It will also be fun to do something slightly different than the usual sugar or gingerbread cookies, don't you agree?  I highly recommend these Alfajores, two buttery, crumbly cookies hugging the sweet dulce de leche (a sort of caramelized milk jam), your friends and relative will appreciate the novelty.  You may have to teach them how to say the name, al-fa-ho-res, but once they bite into these addictively delicious cookies, they won't mind one bit.

Don't let the fact that these cookies are so deliciously delicate – they seem to crumble under too
intense a gaze – deter you.  While being made, the dough is so easy to
work with it feels like Play-doh.

Alfajores cookies

250g cornstarch (2 cups – see method below*)
200g all purpose flour (1 1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
200g, 7oz (14tbsp) butter at room temperature
75g sugar (1/3 cup )
3 egg yolks
1tbsp cognac
1 cup Dulce de Leche (see below**)

*If you don't have a kitchen scale, this recipe should convince you to go get one.  Cornstarch is quite difficult to measure in volume, so the measurement here is by weight instead.  If you don't have a kitchen scale and don't want to buy one (whatever!) you can sift the cornstarch directly onto your measuring cup.  Line a pasty board or your countertop with a large piece of parchment paper, place a one cup dry-measure in the middle of it.  Pour cornstarch into a sifter or a large strainer and sift it directly over the measuring cup.  Continue sifting until you fill the cup with sifted cornstarch.  You can tap the cup gently just to let the cornstarch settle into the cup, but do it very gently as you don't want to pack cornstarch tightly into it.  Level the top with the back of a knife.  Pour the measured cornstarch into another bowl, pour the excess cornstarch on the paper back into the box, then repeat the process to measure the second cup.  Measuring this way you should get about 250g from two cups, precisely what you need in this recipe.

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).

Sift flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder and baking soda together.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and yolks on high speed until they are well incorporated, add cognac and beat until combined.  Reduce the speed to low, add the dry ingredients a bit at a time until well incorporated.  Empty the bowl onto a dry board and knead the mixture just until it comes together into dough.  Divide the dough into two balls.  At this point you can wrap each with plastic and store in the fridge for up to a day until you're ready to use them. 

If the dough has been refrigerated, let it sit out at room temperature for a short time to warm up a bit.  Then, on a lightly-floured board, roll each ball of dough until it is 1/4 inch or 5mm thick.  Use a 3inch or 6-7cm fluted cookie cutter to cut 20-25 cookies from each half of the dough.  You can gather the excess dough together and roll it again.  (This dough is very forgiving.)  Place the cut cookies onto two large cookie sheets, leaving just half an inch or 1cm between them – they only expand a tiny bit while baking. 

Bake the cookies for 15-20 minutes, switching the baking sheets about halfway through.  The cookies should change the color only slightly.  Remove from the oven immediately, let stand on the cookie sheet for about two minutes.  Then, handling them gently, transfer them onto a rack to cool. 

 Alfajorestwo

To finish the cookies, fill a pastry bag with the dulce de leche and pipe about 1 tbsp on top of half the cookies.  If you don't have a pastry bag, just spread the dulce de leche onto the
cookies with a butter knife.  Be careful, these cookies are very
delicate.  Top the filled cookies with the other half, making little cookie sandwiches, pressing down a little so the filling is spread evenly.  Sift a bit of powdered sugar on top just before serving.  You can also roll the side of the cookies over coconut flakes to make them even more delicious (and authentic.) 

**Dulce de Leche
1 14oz or 400g can of sweetened condensed milk
1 vanilla pod (if you want to splurge, or just a teaspoon of vanilla extract (added at the end)

Preheat the oven to 425F

Open
the can of condensed milk and pour it into a medium-sized baking pan.  (I use
a glass pyrex pie plate for this.)  Cut the vanilla pod in half
lengthwise (if using) and scrape out the seeds.  Add them to the
condensed milk and mix well.  You can even throw in the pod as well,
just remove them after the cooking.  Cover the baking pan with aluminum
foil.

Place the baking pan on top of a larger pan with high
sides.  Add water to the larger pan until it comes halfway up to the side of the small
pan.  Place it in the oven and bake for about one hour.  Check it every so often to make sure
there's still water in the pan, fill it if necessary. 

Remove
the pan from the oven, take out the vanilla pod (or add vanilla extract if using) whisk until the
texture is smooth.  Let it cool to room temperature before using.

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  • http://profile.typepad.com/thelacquerspoonblogspotcom Thelacquerspoon.blogspot.com

    Looks white Xmassy. Yum :) )

  • Katherine

    Brr yes it’s freezing here.
    I made these (I have your book!) and the cookies were delicious and crumbly with a yolky richness. However, I couldn’t get the dulce de leche to firm up. The cookie sandwiches slide apart when I assemble them. What could have gone wrong with my dulce de leche (made with your recipe)?
    Thanks! :D

  • http://feteandfeast.com Natanya

    I really like these as an unexpected addition to a holiday cookie gift tin or platter. The dusting of powdered sugar on top is just like fresh snow. I’ve seen cookies like these coated in choclate before but I like this as a lighter version. thanks for sharing.

  • Joanne

    Mm, love gingerbread cookies. I found the most easy recipe ever for those not as talented as ms chez pim. :) Enjoy! http://www.ranker.com/list/gingerbread-cookie-man-recipe-or-gingerbread-man-cookie-recipe/elaineyo

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    It has been my yearly thing to give treats to the children in our neighborhood during Christmas! And I am thinking of this recipe to be given! Thanks for sharing!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    I didn’t think of it but I guess you’re right! Happy white christmas to you – even here in sunny California we just might have one too!

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    Hmm, sorry to hear that. What brand condensed milk did you use? I’ve never had that problem before. It’s not low-sugar or low-fat condensed milk was it? That might affect the result. Also, is your oven on the low side? Try turning the heat up just ten degree or so. Also, try a wider container perhaps?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    Yes, you can go totally crazy and dip these in chocolate. Or just dip half of the finished alfajores in chocolate and you can call it low fat! ;-)

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    The recipe looks interesting, but I’m not sure about the addition of Jell-o in the dough. Plus, I never have Jell-o in the pantry so…

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    Oh they’ll love these. Blog about this and be sure to come back to give me the link please!

  • http://www.enmicocinahoy.blogspot.com Pilar

    This recipe is almost the same as our family recipe, I’m from Chile, we use to make this cookies for Christmas too.
    We usually put chopped walnuts on the borders.
    They are delicious!

  • http://www.thegardenerseden.com Michaela @ The Gardener’s Eden

    These look delicious – and every bit as pretty as the snowflakes falling here in Vermont. Thank you for the lovely gift – one that will keep on giving
    Happy Holidays
    Michaela

  • http://food-and-cook.blogspot.com recipe

    i love cookies, your recipe looks simple but the taste looks yumy, i’ll try it

  • http://www.authenticsuburbangourmet.blogspot.com Lisa

    Beautiful cookies! One of my favorites! I will have to get your new book – keep up the wonderful work. Happy Holidays!

  • DailyChef

    mmm these were delicious. Thanks! And yes, it really has been freezing up in NorCal!

  • http://www.thetiffinwallah.com/ Indian Takeaway

    These are delicious I’m going to serve them in my restaurant this year, should go down well. Thanks for the recipe

  • http://www.cookeaze.com/ cookeaze

    Your loaded baked cookies sounded wonderful and comforting.

  • Raisa Berriz

    Pim, in many markets they now have the Dulce de Leche already made either in the Spanish section or with the sweetened condensed milk. If not you can always boil the can if you are very careful….as long as it is completely covered by water (3-4 inches over) and you watch the time (4 hours), it shouldn’t blow up . I have made it this way since I was a little girl in my Cuban household! I know you can’t give this advice but it is pretty foolproof. Thanks for the great recipe!

  • PS

    Hey, I decided to make these tonight and I found the dough to be quite unfriendly, i.e., it just crumbled apart when I tried to roll it. I tried adding another egg yolk but that didn’t help much. Any ideas? (I did use a scale to measure the dry ingredients.) Also, is the scalloped cutter 3″ in diameter or in circumference? It seems very unlikely that you can cut 20-25 cookies from one-half of the dough using a 3″ diameter cutter.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    Ok, it sounds like a hydration problem in the dough. We can try and troubleshoot it together – how old is your flour and (especially) cornstarch? Older, dried out cornstarch might affect the hydration of the dough. Also, was the butter *really* at room temperature? If not that will also affect how the dough hydrates.
    Try these with newer flour and cornstarch, and make sure your butter (and your egg yolks) are at true room temperature – or even higher if your house is very cold this season. The butter should be very soft.
    This recipe is a popular one at my book signings, so I know it works out of the test kitchen.

  • PS

    Thanks for the tips, Pim but, uh oh, I’m sure there’s a problem. Yesterday, when I went to make a list for any missing ingredients from the recipe above, I noted that I needed to buy corn starch–and I did. However, when I opened the book in the kitchen to do the recipe, the recipe called for 2 cups of corn FLOUR. I thought I was losing it, so my lovely partner trucked off to the shops to buy some corn flour. I made the cookies with that. Thought it a bit odd. I’ll double-check the recipe in the book but I’m certain that the recipe in there calls for corn flour.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    You have a UK print, right? In the UK, cornstarch is called cornflour – not to be confused with cornmeal. I checked both English prints, the UK print calls for cornflour (which is correct) and the US print calls for cornstarch (also correct).
    This page explains pretty much the same thing I said above
    http://bit.ly/cornflour
    Hope this helps,
    Pim

  • http://profile.typepad.com/pim Pim

    I’ve used the canned dulce de leche once and it’s actually pretty good. I’ve never done the can-on-stove method. I was in the vicinity (of one being done) once, and I stayed clear of the kitchen! Bravo to your bravery.

  • PS

    Actually, I bought the book via amazon.com so it’s interesting that I received the UK print as opposed to the US… I had no idea that cornflour and cornstarch were the same entity. Bugger.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/btpantrydoor Ro

    These cookies look so delectable. Thank you for sharing this recipe- maybe next year I will try it as one of my xmas cookies- Ro

  • http://www.vitabits.de/fisch-oele/lebertran%C3%B6l-1000mg/16323 Lebertranöl

    I liked these cookies. Seem to be similar to sandwich biscuits. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe. These can make a wonderful treat!

  • http://www.oncoffeemakers.com/percolator-coffee-maker.html Michael Cavinta

    Thank you very much for sharing this recipe with us. I have tried making this and I gave it out as gifts. My friends really loved it and are now asking me the recipe for this. It really went well with coffee too! Thank you once again and looking forward to more posts like this.

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    I think that these mushrooms would be a great addition to my mushroom collection.

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    Mangosteen is my favorite childhood fruit. Can’t find any fresh ones when I moved to US. Can’t wait to let my toddler taste the Pear Mangosteen cottage cheese.

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    These are really delicious cookies, I have tasted them and they are really awesome.

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    I usually eat cookies with milk because their pairing is excellent.

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    Just the filling alone makes my mouth water. I stopped making cookies because of a particular incident that I can’t talk about.

  • http://kitsch-kitchen.blogspot.com Taz

    yum, these look and sound delicious. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  • Kristen

    I just made these and man were they delicious! The dough seemed a bit crumbly but I found that if I rolled it between two sheets of plastic wrap that it stayed together beautifully. Thanks for the wonderful recipe!

  • http://www.salterkitchenscales.net/ salter kitchen scales

    Thank you for this blog. Thats all I can say. You most definitely have made this blog into something thats eye opening and important. You clearly know so much about the subject, youve covered so many bases. Great stuff from this part of the internet. Again, thank you for this blog.

  • Tin Tin

    I want to try this recipe but i don’t have cognac in my pantry. Is there a substitute?

  • http://www.WestieArtGarden.blogspot.com Candylei Yap

    I am so happy to find this recipe again. Years back we made these in Hawaii for a Kamehameha School fundraiser. When I first saw the recipe I told them it must be a typographical error because there is no way it could be two cups of cornstarch. We were told it was correct and made them and we marveled at how good they were! There wasn’t any cognac in it but the recipe is similar. They melt in your mouth! Now I have to make these again!
    Thank you, Candylei

  • http://profile.typepad.com/chavita Chavita 0622

    I live in Guayaquil ,Ecuador. Today I saw a tv program in Natgeo about you and I decided look in here and Im so excited with this recipe!! Here, you can find this alfajores all the time, they are very populars in partys, weddings, sweet 15, baby showers, You can found it at many grocerys just for 0.35 cts, really are very delicious and you can share with friends. It’s so tipical.
    Hugs from Ecuador!
    Chavita

  • http://www.popcookbook.com mark

    Wow neve had a cookie look this good that didn’t come from a store. These are gorgeous.

  • Clara

    In Argentina, where I live, we have alfajores pretty much on a daily basis, and 99 percent of the times they come either covered in chocolate or in a light, flaky sugar coating. these are however, a special kind of alfajores (the dough is made with corn starch) and are usually never coated with anything, perhaps some shredded coconut on the sides, because our dulce de leche -the REAL dulce de leche, if I may say so- is much thicker and darker, so it comes in a thicker layer. you may find images under the name alfajores de maizena (the most common brand of corn starch)
    Looove your blog :)

  • Quoc

    I’ve just tasted this cookie the other week for the first time at the farmer’s market and absolutely loved it. Of course, I wanted to know how to make it. Your recipe was right on. Kudos! Thank you so much. Your recipe tasted just like the ones I had. I did make one small change because my Mex-American friend had some on hand. The difference was some sweetened condensed milk that was boiled in the un-opened can for the longest time (probably 5-6 hours), making it thick and dark-tanned. It seemed richer than the normal stuff out of the can. Thanks again for the wonderful recipe.

  • Isabelapanta

    This recipie was just AMAZING!!!! I absolutly ADORED it!!! The only thing that I can complain about is that they were a little too fragile. While putting on the dulce de leche I broke quiet a few… I would recomend when putting it on, use a circular motion to spread.

    Only one small change that I made, I changed the alchohol for the same measurement of milk. I didn’t miss it and since I didn’t have any and this was going to children I had to use the milk.

    Still turnedout AMAZING!! Thanks soo much for the recipie! will DEFFINETLY be remaking this!! :D

  • Sylvia

    I finally got around to trying to make my own Dulce De Leche last night, it took about 2 hours baking time rather than 1 until it was ready. Still I was really happy with the result and will use this method in the future :)

  • http://www.texanerin.com Texanerin

    I made these for my husband as part of a South American Christmas presents theme thing I had going on. He loved them! So did his family. I even had to make more for them. I’m sure I would have also loved them if I weren’t such a disliker of dry cookies. Thanks for the recipe! :)