How to Make Perfectly Crumbly Alfajores with Creamy Dulce de Leche
A Pastry Pro Shares Her Secret
Alfajores are to Latin American kids what peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are to American children: the preferred snack and a must-have in every child’s lunch box.
These popular sandwich cookies can be made in many different ways, depending on the country they come from, but they always consist of two soft cookies with some type of jam.
In Peru for example, alfajores means two shortbread cookies sandwiched with dulce de leche and dusted with powdered sugar. In Argentina, every province has its own type, ranging from two cracker-like cookies sandwiched with quince paste (dulce de membrillo) or a softer style filled with sweet potato paste (dulce de batata) or dulce de leche. Some varieties are glazed with chocolate or royal icing. In my home country, Uruguay, our popular pastry is made with a substantial amount of cornstarch — giving alfajores a very soft texture that crumbles in your mouth — and a creamy dulce de leche center. To finish the alfajores, the sides are rolled in shredded coconut.
Back in 2001, when I worked at Union Square Café as the pastry chef, Chef Michael Romano and owner Danny Meyer asked me to include some of my dessert recipes in their latest project: the cafe's "Second Helpings Cookbook." I was thrilled that one of my favorite home country recipes — including alfajores — as part of such an iconic cookbook. Many years have gone by and the original recipe can still be found on page 304 the cookbook, but below you'll find an even better, updated version.
Makes 24 sandwich cookies
- 170 grams soft butter
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 200 grams sugar
- 40 grams egg yolks
- 100 grams eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 312 grams cornstarch
- 140 grams all-purpose flour
- 12 grams baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Dulce de leche
- Unsweetened coconut
- Using a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, cream the softened butter, the sugar and the lemon zest on medium speed for 6 minutes.
- At the same speed, slowly add the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla extract. Keep the mixer running until all the liquids have been completely absorbed and the mixture looks smooth.
- Sift all the dry ingredients and add them to the butter mixture. Mix until it forms a soft dough.
- Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and form a flat package. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.
- Work with half of the dough at a time, keeping the rest refrigerated. Roll it out to 1/4-inch thickness and cut 2 1/2-inch rounds.
- The scraps can be rolled out and used again, however it's best to refrigerate them at least 30 minutes before re-rolling the dough.
- Bake the circles at 275 F for 8 minutes. The cookies should not have any color or they will become too dry.
- Once cooled, sandwich cookies around dulce de leche and roll the sides with unsweetened shredded coconut.