Alfajores and dulce de leche became common terms early in my marriage. Living in Argentina following college, my husband’s love of both became evident with his animated descriptions of the rich caramel of dulce de leche and freshly baked Alfajores Tea Cookies or tea biscuits.
Writing for The Seattle Times, Leora Bloom describes a recent trip to the windswept Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia. Along with sweeping views and amazing vistas, she also discovered a love for Alfajores Tea Cookies, a treat regularly handed out by her guide. At the end of her stay, she came home with more than mere souvenirs. She came back with a recipe.
She explains that “Alfajores de Maizena are a type of tea cookie or [tea biscuit] filled with dulce de leche (a rich, thick milk caramel), much loved in Latin America. They look quite unassuming, but everything about the way they taste is remarkable: The cookie is melt-in-your-mouth tender because it’s made with such a high proportion of cornstarch, and the generous layer of dulce de leche in the middle gives it substance and chew.”
The dough, she says, is easy to make and very easy to roll. “Really, the only trick is to use a thick dulce de leche to fill the cookies.”
Alfajores Tea Cookies with Dulce de Leche
1 cup cornstarch
½ cup plus 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cognac
About 16 ounces dulce de leche or manjar (The author recommends Colombina brand, San Ignacio and La Salamandra)
1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift together the cornstarch, flour, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the yolks, and mix well to blend. Slowly add the cognac, a tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition.
3. Add the sifted dry ingredients, and gently mix to blend. Do not overwork the dough.
4. Divide the dough into two pieces. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour. Roll out one of the pieces of dough to ¼ centimeter thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out circles (I like them 4 centimeters in diameter), and place them about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. When you have filled a baking sheet, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and place the baking sheet in the refrigerator to chill. Continue rolling and cutting out the dough (the scraps as well), and chill the baking sheets as you fill them.
5. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the pan after six minutes, until the cookies feel firm to the touch but have not taken on any color.
6. Let the cookies cool completely, then put the dulce de leche in a piping bag fitted with a plain tip. Finely crush four of the cookies, and put the crumbs in a small bowl. Turn half of the remaining cookies upside-down, and pipe on a generous “kiss” of dulce de leche. Top with another cookie, and very gently squeeze until the filling is even. Very gently press the sides of each filled cookie into the crumbs.
Note: These are even more melt-in-your mouth after a day or two (well-wrapped).