Today I’m sharing one of my all time favorite cookie recipes. I started making these cookies when my kids were in elementary school. Every year they were required to complete world culture projects and participate in class festivals.
One year in particular, I wasn’t sure what my daughter should bring. I decided on Alfajores at the very last minute. I have family in Peru, so I quickly Facebook messaged a cousin who, just as quickly, passed along this great recipe to me. I made it as fast as I could and delivered it to school just in time.
It’s been my “go-to” recipe for these type of events ever since. The cookies were a hit and I became the mom that made the “best alfajores.”
Just in case you’re wondering…what is an alfajor?
An alfajor is basically a sandwich cookie- two or three cookie rounds, stuffed with some type of filling. They are common in different variations all over Latin America, especially South America. The dough itself can be made of cornstarch or maizena, or regular flour, nut flours, and many other ingredients.
Alfajores can be soft and crumbly, hard and crispy, and even wafer-thin, melt in your mouth. They’ve come to be associated with dulce de leche, however, they can be filled with anything. Other fillings include chocolate ganache, jam or jelly, honey, and even apple filling.
A little history lesson about the alfajor (pronounced al-fah-hor)…I apologize, I am a history teacher, after all. I can’t resist.
I can hear the moaning, lol. 😉
This is a very simplified history and I stress…simplified, as any research into the subject will produce differing accounts and a wealth of details. I’m giving you a basic lesson here, so relax.
The alfajor originates in the Arab world and was introduced by the Moors during their conquest of Spain (at least parts of it) in the 8th century. The cookie was then assimilated by Spain and became part of Spanish tradition, eaten most often during the holidays. During the Spanish conquest of the Americas, the alfajor was brought along with the conquistadores and took its place among the many items that became part of the Columbian Exchange.
Sometime during the Latin American colonial period, dulce de leche was born. Again, there are lots of historical accounts, as well as many disputes over which Latin American country can claim ownership. However, it is the dulce de leche filling that makes this cookie a Latin American tradition.
Lesson complete…you can wake up now 🙂
Today, you’ll find many varieties and offshoots of this sandwich cookie throughout Latin America, especially in Peru, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Ecuador and Colombia.
There are always disputes in Latin America as to which country makes the best version. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter who takes credit for their creation nor which country makes the best…they’re ALL good!
They can be found all over Argentina and Peru in bakeries devoted to just this cookie. I can only personally recommend one bakery chain specializing in the alfajor which I’ve actually visited, located in Lima, Peru…La Casa Del Alfajor. They make all kinds and they’re delicious.
The recipe I’m sharing today is a cornstarch and all-purpose flour combination. Cornstarch, or maizena, alfajores are very common in Argentina. They’re also common in Peru, however, Peruvians tend favor the all-flour version, although that’s been changing in the last few years. I’ll be sharing other versions in some upcoming posts. Try them all and decide on your favorite.
Following Latin American tradition, I filled my alfajores with dulce de leche. I used a home-made version to fill my alfajores, however, I also use store bought dulce de leche when I’m pressed for time. I’ll be posting several dulce de leche recipes soon.
Tips on making alfajores:
Because it includes cornstarch, the dough will seem very crumbly. After the creaming process, I add the dry ingredients to my stand mixer and just barely mix. I transfer the dough to parchment paper and knead until the it comes together.
I don’t chill the dough right away…instead, I roll between two sheets of parchment using my perfection strips to keep the thickness of the cookies uniform. I cut out the shapes using a one and three quarters sized fluted biscuit cutter and then chill the cut-out cookies in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes (this is supposed to reduce the amount of spreading while baking).
The cookies bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for only 10-11 minutes. Since all ovens behave differently, just make sure your cookies don’t brown, they need to be light in color.
Let your cookies cool very well. I try not to touch them, they’ll just crumble at this point. After a few minutes, I just gently slide off the baking sheet. I leave the cookies on the parchment paper they baked on over the wire rack. Just make sure your rack is the same size as the parchment or some cookies may slide off and break once you remove the baking sheet. Mine isn’t, so I just softly nudge the cookies together so they stay on the rack.
Once the cookies are completely cool, it’s time for the filling. I like to fill my cookies with a piping bag. It allows me to fill them and not touch them. I’m a bit clumsy…my uncle says I should have been named Archie, not Veronica, because of how clumsy I am, lol. So using a piping bag helps me keep the cookies from breaking apart. Just make sure you flip the cookies over so the rough side get the filling.
Most people get the filling on with a spoon or small knife, they twirl it around and fiddle with it trying to smooth it. Others just plop it on and cover it with the other cookie, the “sandwiching” smooths the filling out for you. However, I’ve tried both methods and lost a few cookies each time.
I guess that’s good if you want to eat some and need an excuse, but when I give these out as gifts, I want as many perfect alfajores as I can get. I don’t mind cleaning up the piping bag afterwards. A good soak in some hot water and the filling just slides off- and yes, I do reuse my piping bags a few times.
Once your cookies are covered, it’s time for some delicious embellishments! For example, alfajores…
- rolled in shredded, sweetened coconut
- rolled in toasted coconut
- rolled in finely chopped pecans, almonds, and other nuts
- covered in chocolate ganache or white chocolate
- covered in glace icing
My favorite is the alfajor topped with powdered sugar. Just get your cookies close together and sprinkle away.
I love this version for it’s soft and crumbly texture. It really does melt in your mouth!
They make great gifts, if you can stop yourself from finishing them off. And if you’re looking for some other varieties, here’s a great example of making alfajores with a “twist” from Connie at Urban Bakes. She made these gorgeous sweet and salty alfajores.
So, just out of curiosity…how many of you liked history in middle and high school?
- 2 sticks of butter, softened at room temperature (16 ounces or 200g)
- ¾th cup granulated sugar (110g)
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon rum*
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2½ cups cornstarch (260g)
- 1⅔ cups all-purpose flour (170g)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 can of store-bought Dulce de Leche, or home-made*
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add egg yolks, one at a time.
- Stop and scrape the bowl.
- Add rum and vanilla extract, mix well.
- Add cornstarch, flour, baking powder and baking soda.
- Mix until just combined.
- Place on parchment paper and knead just enough so that dough comes together.
- Roll out cookies and cut using a small round cutter.*
- Refrigerate cookies on baking sheets for 15-20 minutes
- Bake cookies for 10-11 minutes only, no longer. Cookies should not brown.
- Cool cookies on wire rack.
- Try and match cookies of the same height to form pairs.
- Flip them, rough side up.
- Pipe or spoon dulce de leche onto bottom cookies, about 1½ teaspoons- 1 tablespoon*
- Top with remaining cookie.
- Sprinkle powdered sugar on cookies.
- Serve or store.
- Chocolate ganache
- Jam or other type of fruit fillings
- You can roll cookies in:
- -shredded, finely minced coconut
- -toasted and somewhat crushed coconut
- -finely chopped nuts...your preference.
- -grated chocolate
*Pre-made canned dulce de leche is easily available. You can also try Latin American grocers. A few different recipes for Dulce de Leche will be coming to the blog soon!
*After making the dough, I immediately proceed to rolling and cutting. I chill cookies after rolling and cutting.
*I prefer to place dulce de leche in a piping bag and pipe it onto the cookie- the less you handle these cookies, the better. They are very delicate and can break easily.
Storing: I store my alfajores in a glass jar. They're pretty good for up to a week (although they're eaten up in a few days in my house), then they just crumble too much.
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