This year, Allison has been doing a "Study Abroad" in Argentina and of course we were all excited to visit her. Jenn was the first to go and when she came back she brought us some alfajores - a sweet snack that is as common in much of South America as Oreos are here - but a lot more delicious than a mass produced sandwich cookie. Often served with a cup of cafe con leche (coffee with milk) these caramel filled treats are found everywhere: individually wrapped in the little kiosk stores found on every street, in large packages in markets, in bakeries, and in cafes. My favorite comes from a chain coffee shop named Havanah. It is a chocolate alfajor dipped in white lemony chocolate. Allison's favorites are the shortbread like variety rolled in shredded coconut. When we went to see her this March, one of the places she took us was Libreria de Avila, Buenos Aires' oldest bookstore. There I found a modern book, Cocineros Argentinos, filled with recipes from the Argentine version of Food Network. I converted the two recipes listed below by changing grams into cups. Due to differences between US and Argentine flour, sugar, and butter - I wouldn't say these produce absolute athentic alfajores! However, they still taste very yummy and are just fabulous with a cup of coffee with milk!
Ingredients for Vanilla "Shortbread" Alfajores Ingredients for Chocolate Alfajores1 3/4 cup corn starch 3/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup flour 1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup butter 1 1/4 cup butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs plus 2 egg yolks 2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla 1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
Also needed is a can or two of prepared dulce de leche such as Nestle brand, a bit of powdered sugar, some shredded coconut, and a pound each of semi- sweet and white chocolate to melt and cover the sandwich cookies in. (I have used baking bars as well as just candy coating squares.) Also nice is a pinch of lemon zest for the melted white chocolate and orange zest for the semi-sweet.
Directions for Both Types of Alfajores
Cream the butter and the sugar together. Beat the eggs in one at a time. Mix in any other liquid ingredient such as honey or vanilla if called for. Then stir in the dry ingredients.
The dough will be soft and glossy. Chill it in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour.
Flour a wooden board or other surface to roll the dough out on. Don't be afraid to use as much flour as you need - this dough is sticky! And - it really doesn't even show up after baking - even on the chocolate ones. Use a rolling pin to flatten it out or even your well floured hands; it's a bit difficult!
Roll the dough out to a little less than 1/4 inch thick, and use a small glass to cut out disks.
Place each disk on a parchment covered cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 8 to 9 minutes. Don't let the "shortbread" cookies get brown. Allow them to cool.
Then dress them up a bit with the dulce de leche, coconut, powdered sugar, and chocolates.
Pipe the dulce de leche filling on a cookie with a cake decorator or fill up a plastic baggie with dulche de leche and cut off one corner to squeeze it out, then top it with another cookie.
Sprinkle a bit of powdered sugar of top of a chocolate alfajor or ...
Roll the side of a shortbread alfajor in shredded coconut. The dulce de leche filling will make the coconut stick to the sides.
Place the semi-sweet and white chocolate in individual microwave safe bowls and one at a time microwave it for 30 seconds. Stir and microwave again if necessary for 15 seconds.
Stir until completely melted. If using, stir the lemon zest in the white chocolate and the orange zest in the semi-sweet chocolate.
Dip the alfajor in the chocolate and allow the access to drip off. Using a couple of forks helps to maintain control of the cookie!
Esto es Jenn, Allison, y de Allison novio Lucas. Están en uno de los muchos cafés de Buenos Aires.