When referring to or attributing to that which comes from the country of Argentina, which word do you use, Argentine, Argentinian or Argentinean? As I was preparing to write this little bit of a cookie recipe, the thought occurred to me that I have heard all three words used in the course of conversation. As it turns out all are possible and listed in the dictionary, so knock yourself out and use whichever you prefer.
Alfajores are a most incredible short bread kind of cookie sandwich with Dulce de Leche oozing from the center and coconut clinging to the sweet caramelized filling. The cookie crumbles into buttery shards as you bite in and dulce de leche coats your tongue in velvety goodness. Alfajores are attributed to Argentina and one of the first manufacturers was Jewish from the Alfajores Successo company.
I tasted my first cookie on a recent trip to Florida with my sister. It was a girl’s trip and all we did was eat, shop, hang out at the pool, and talk, talk and talk. The local morning coffee shop we passed on our morning constitution sold Alfajores individually wrapped.
I decided to research and make these wonderful cookies and true to my principles I made my own Dulce de Leche, and made the dough with unsalted butter. With a little tinkering and a bit of trial and error for the details lost in translation this recipe is very workable and not hard to execute. Give them a try. I am putting Alfajores into my mix in the Purim Platicos or Mishloach Manot this year.
Yield 32 to 36 sandwich cookies
The recipe yields about 72 cookie halves, however since these are sandwich cookies you actually end up with half as many.
2 and 1/ 2 cups cornstarch (Maizena brand is preferred)
1 and 2/ 3 cups unbleached flour
1/ 2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 egg yolks
3/ 4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 cups shredded coconut
Heat oven to 350°F. Measure cornstarch, flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a medium bowl, stir to combine. Place butter in bowl of stand mixer or in a large bowl to use with a hand held beater. Beat butter until creamy and then, add egg yolks one at a time beating after each addition until fluffy. Next, add vanilla, orange juice and lemon zest. Add flour to creamed butter in three additions, starting with mixer on lowest speed and mixing until just combined. Prepare a floured work surface, either a granite countertop or I prefer a large silpat and a rolling pin. Roll dough out in a rectangle about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. using a one and one half inch diameter biscuit cutter cut out an even number of circles.
Gently re-roll trimmings from dough to form more cookies, being careful to not overowrk dough. Place cookies evenly spaced on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. 20 fit perfectly on a 12 by 18 inch half sheet. Place baking sheet in oven with rack in the middle. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cookies should be pale in color, barely starting to turn a little gold. Remove cookies from oven and cool on a rack.
When cookies are completely cool, place a small spoon full of dulce de leche on half of the cookie halves. Place a second cookie on top to create a sandwich and press down to spread dulce de leche out to the edge of the sandwich. Roll exposed dulce de leche in coconut placed on a flat plate and place cookie aside.
For made at home dulce de leche, empty the contents of two cans (12-14 oz cans) of sweetened condensed milk into a glass pie plate. Cover pie plate tightly with heavy duty foil and set into a bain marie or roasting pan with hot water coming half way up the side of pie plate. Place milk in a 400° F oven and bake for one to one and a quarter hours. Remove cover of pie plate and stir dulce de leche with a wooden spoon, until velvety and smooth. Store refrgerated in a tightly covered container.