C is for Cookie, but A is for Alfajor.
If you've never heard of them, alfajores are definitely one to add to your alphabet of sweets: a delectable type of crumbly cookie commonly sandwiched with indulgent dulce de leche.
Though most commonly associated with South American countries such as Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Paraguay, Chile, Perú and the South of Brazil, these cookies actually take their roots in the Arab World: per Wikipedia, "the name alfajor is derived from Arabic الفاخر, which means "fancy" or "great" sweets. The archetypal alfajor entered Iberia during the period of al-Andalus."
Though this sweet treat has a long history, I took a more modern approach by making a Pisco-infused batch (with thanks to Gran Sierpe, who kindly donated some Pisco, a Peruvian brandy, with which to test out some recipes). The brandy adds a slightly sophisticated bite to the sweet cookies, compelling you to take bite after bite to try to figure out the source of the je ne sais quoi.
Want to make your own? Here's the recipe I used.
Adapted from About.com's South American Food
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1 3/4 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup butter
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon Pisco (I used Gran Sierpe)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup dulce de leche, OR 1 cup vanilla buttercream, for filling
- 1/2 cup toasted coconut, finely chopped (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and mix briefly.
- Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixture, blending with your fingers until the mixture is smooth.
- Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and Pisco, and mix with your hands until the dough is homogeneous and smooth. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- For this step, either follow the original recipe by rolling out dough to 3/8" thickness, and cutting into 2 inch circles--OR, do as I did and roll the dough into a log and then slice cookies to your desired thickness (I liked fat ones, maybe 1/4 inch thick). Place cookies on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake cookies for 10-15 minutes, until they are barely golden brown. Let cookies cook 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to rack to cool completely (they are quite fragile until they cool).
- To fill the cookies, spread one cookie with dulce de leche and top with second cookie (note: as I found out, buttercream works beautifully too--picture below). If desired, roll the edges in the coconut. Store in an airtight container.