Friday, March 30, 2012

Alfajores...Sort of

I have a confession.

These aren't proper Alfajores. The sort that South Americans pride themselves upon. I know, I know, but let me tell you about my journey with these annoying little buggers before you judge.

When I visited Peru many, many moons ago, street food was a very popular marketplace. Alfajores were sold on many a corner. They are the perfect sweet treat after a savory bite. I was dying to try the tamales, but my Aunt told me that I shouldn't eat any of the food sold on the street due to contamination that my "fragile American body" wasn't able to handle.

Seriously? Please. She clearly hadn't eaten Aunt Susie's Chicken Pot Pie lately. That dish is enough to make anyone develop a stomach of steel. Little did she know, I would ask to go to the market, post office, anywhere I could get away so I could buy and try the delights the city had to offer. On my way back home, I had my first Alfajor. 

Ah, Alfajores. Did you hear the harps? These are wonderful. A shortbread-like sandwich cookie filled with decadent dulce du leche, jam, and/or coconut.

I completely forgot about them until several months ago. I was flipping through a travel magazine and low and behold, they there were.

To make a long story short, I made these FOUR TIMES using three different recipes, including the one in the magazine. And failed. I just could not figure out where I kept going wrong. I just chalked it up to the fact that these were never going to happen for me. However, if you know me, that's just not okay in my books. When it comes to baking, I always win.

I decided to give it one last go and use a very basic cookie recipe I have that would pair up very nicely with my favorite varitey of the Alfajor - dulce de leche and coconut. Why didn't I think of this before? I'm so glad I didn't lose complete faith and was so not disappointed with the outcome.

Like I said, I always win.



½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
½ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice or lemon
2½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

1 jar homemade or store bought Dulce de Leche.

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
Confectioner's sugar to dust

Preheat oven to 350º.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mats.

In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in milk, vanilla, and lemon juice.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; gradually blend into the creamed mixture.

Drop tablespoons of the 2 inches apart on prepared sheet. I used a large retractable ice cream scoop.

Bake until edges begin to brown; checking at 8 minutes. Due to size, mine took about 11 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool completely. Don't worry if you get any wonky cookies. The dulce de leche and coconut will cover any imperfections.

Spread a generous amount of dulce de leche onto underside of cookie.

Sandwich with another cookie, and run some more dulce over the gap. Roll in coconut.

Store in airtight container. Best eaten within a day or two.

Yields: About 12 Alfajores.

Happy Baking!

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