Sweet Cookies

Alfajores (South American sandwich cookies)

Tiny, sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth soft, these sandwich cookies feature a center of smooth dulce de leche.

I had never heard of alfajores before a few months ago, but they have quickly become a recipe I intend to make on a regular basis. Primarily found in South America, these treats consist of two soft, shortbread-like cookies sandwiched around a thick layer of dulce de leche. The cookies are light and delicate, making them perfect as a teatime treat – and since the recipe makes an astonishing number of cookies, these will be perfect for Christmas cookie plates during the holiday season.

Jump to Recipe

Alfajores vary quite a bit depending on what country you’re in; the recipe we’re making today is based on the version found in Argentina. When you start to delve into culinary history, you quickly realize that many treats go on long journeys to reach the form we know and love today.

Tiny, sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth soft, these alfajores sandwich cookies feature a center of smooth dulce de leche.

The original version of this sweet treat was probably brought into Spain by Arabic settlers; the original Spanish term alajú probably came from the Arabic “al-hasú” meaning “filled”. Alajú – a flat, filled cake – eventually morphed into the smaller alfajor (singular for alfajores) – a soft cookie sandwiched around a sweet filling.

As the Spanish colonized South America, alfajores came with them. As time has passed, the alfajores in Central and South America have all developed into their own delicious regional varieties. In Peru, the cookies are filled with manjar blanco, a thicker, more vanilla version of dulce de leche. Havana, a popular souvenir brand, covers their alfajores in a layer of semi sweet chocolate. Regardless of the cookie variety or the country, alfajores are consistently delicious, wherever you go.

Alfajores require your standard cookie ingredients – flour, butter, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and vanilla – but there are three pretty big differences in this cookie dough. First, we use fresh lemon zest to give these cookies a light, fresh flavor. Second, we use 4 egg yolks – not whole eggs – to give these cookies some of their rise. I made the mistake of using 4 whole eggs on my first attempt, and ended up with dough that was far too wet, and cookies with the texture of cakes. Don’t make my same mistake.

Finally, probably the most important ingredient in our dough, is cornstarch. And not just a couple of tablespoons; you might need to buy a new container, because these cookies call for two cups of cornstarch. This recipe uses slightly more cornstarch than flour, making these cookies a little bit softer than your normal shortbread, but while still maintaining the delicate and melty mouthfeel. It’s unusual, but it’s what make these Argentinian alfajores special.

As mentioned, you also will need dulce de leche to fill these cookies. You can make your own, but the process requires a lot of close observation…and is decidedly not risk-averse. I was able to find a can of pre-prepared stuff in the baking section of my grocery, next to the sweetened condensed milk. You may need to check the world foods section of your grocery, near the Abuelita hot cocoa.

Now that you’ve assembled all of your ingredients, let’s get baking. In a large bowl, combine the flour, corn starch, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside. 

Cream together butter and sugar using an electric mixer. Mix in the vanilla bean paste, water, and lemon zest before beating in egg yolks one at a time. 

Slowly stir the dry ingredients into your wet ingredients until completely combined. Do not overmix. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the refrigerator to cool for at least 30 minutes.

After your dough has cooled, divide it in half. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is approximately ¼” thick. Use a 1 ½” round cookie cutter to stamp out cookies and transfer them to a prepared baking sheet. Gather the scraps of dough and re-roll them, repeating the process until you have used all of the dough. 

Place the trays of unbaked cookies in the refrigerator or freezer and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Once the oven has preheated, transfer your cooled pans of cookies to the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. The bottom of the cookie should be slightly golden, but the top of the cookie will still be pale. Allow the cookies to cool on the pan for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cookies have cooled, flip half of your cookies upside down and coat with a thick layer of dulce de leche. Top with the right-side-up cookies to create sandwiches.

Dust your sandwich cookies with powdered sugar to make them look picture-perfect.

You can also roll your alfajores in flaked coconut. The coconut will stick to the dulce de leche, adding both flavor and texture to these tiny treats.

I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as we have! Maybe you baked them for your sister’s baby shower, or made a batch for your cousin’s engagement party. If you make them at home, feel free to tag any social media posts with @WhiskAverseBaking, or leave a message in the comments below.

Alfajores (South American sandwich cookies)

Popular throughout Argentina, Peru, and Venezuela, these delicate cookies are sandwiched around a thick layer of dulce de leche.
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 10 mins
Assembly time 15 mins
Total Time 1 hr 25 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Argentinian, South American
Servings 24 sandwich cookies

Equipment

  • 1 ½” round cookie cutter

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups cornstarch yes, cups! It’s a lot of cornstarch!
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 can dulce de leche for filling
  • Flaked coconut for garnish
  • Powdered sugar for garnish

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, corn starch, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.
  • Cream together butter and sugar using an electric mixer. Mix in the vanilla bean paste, water, and lemon zest before beating in egg yolks one at a time.
  • Slowly stir the dry ingredients into your wet ingredients until completely combined. Do not overmix.
  • Form the dough into a ball and place it in the refrigerator to cool for at least 30 minutes.
  • After your dough has cooled, divide it in half. Roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it is approximately ¼” thick. Use a 1 ½” round cookie cutter to stamp out cookies and transfer them to a prepared baking sheet. Gather the scraps of dough and re-roll them, repeating the process until you have used all of the dough.
  • Place the trays of unbaked cookies in the refrigerator or freezer and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Once the oven has preheated, transfer your cooled pans of cookies to the oven and bake for 8-12 minutes. The bottom of the cookie should be slightly golden, but the top of the cookie will still be pale.
  • Allow the cookies to cool on the pan for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Once the cookies have cooled, flip half of your cookies upside down and coat with a thick layer of dulce de leche. Top with the right-side-up cookies to create sandwiches. You may also roll the edges of the cookies in flaked coconut for a bonus pop of texture and flavor. Dust finished cookies with powdered sugar before serving.
Keyword alfajor, alfajores, christmas, christmas cookies, coconut, cookies, dulce de leche, sugar cookies

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