Alfajores de Maicena are sweet treats enjoyed all over Latin America. Although each country has a particular way of preparing and garnishing them, the concept evolves around a shortbread sandwich cookie filled with dulce de leche (known in other countries as cajeta, leche quemada, arequipe, among others) and covered in chocolate.
Nevertheless, for the Argentinians, alfajores are more than ordinary sandwich cookies, they are a national treat. Well, anything that involves dulce de leche, their melted gold caramel spread, is considered nothing less than a national treasure.
For me, a Brazilian gal who lived in Argentina for two and half years, I would say alfajores are rooted and encrusted in Argentina culture as Brigadeiros are in Brazilian culture. I had tasted alfajores in Brazil before living in Argentina, but they were the industrialized type, bought in grocery stores.
I remember the first time I tried the real homemade alfajor at a friend’s house in Argentina, where we gathered for a charity committee meeting. We were all sat at her dinner table, paired with cups of coffee and mate. She came from the kitchen holding a vintage grandma-style plate, stacked with pale-cream cookies. They were glued together in pairs by a caramel dough and sides covered in coconut flakes. I thought it was the most delicate and indeed, perfect cookies I had ever seen. It got me curious, and bending over the table, intrigued by the foreign delicacy, I asked her “what is this?”. My friend, and everybody else there, gave me the look as I was asking what was a pineapple. She quickly reminded herself that I was a foreigner and with a sympathetic smile answered “Oh these? These are Alfajores de Maicena”.
The delicacy was already in my mouth and I couldn’t be more confused to hear THAT was an alfajor. It held no resemblance to the industrialized version, covered in waxy chocolate with thin layers of dry crumble biscuits and excessively sweet dulce de leche filling, which I had tried in Brazil.
THIS alfajor was soft, melting on your tongue. It was like a warm hug on my taste buds. These cookies were slightly sweet and lemony, filled with a silky thick layer of dulce de leche and finished off with the texture of thin dry coconut flakes.
My friend made the fatal mistake of placing the alfajores plate right beside me. I struggled the rest of meeting, on a scandalous cycle of attempting/failing to resist the treats and hiding the criminal evidence of crumbles all over me. I left the meeting ashamed by my lack of self control… but my belly was smiling like a naughty child 😉
This homey and easy-to-follow recipe was offered by my dear Argentinian friend Mariana Montero. Mari studied Gastronomy Techniques and Professional Pastry at Cocineros Patagónicos School at Neuquén, Argentina. When living in Peru, she worked at the International Restaurant La Rosa Nautica where she delved in latin gastronomy. Mari also kept her culinary passion alive in her expat years living in EUA and Mexico by teaching classes of Argentina and international culinary. She is currently living in Neuquen, Argentina, with her husband and her three gorgeous daughters. Mari has now dedicated to the art of sushi and started a sushi delivery service at Neuquen called Kanji.
Note: for a true argentinian taste experience try the alfajores with Tereré de pomelo.
Alfajor de Maicena
- 150g butter
- 150g confectioners sugar
- 180g/ 09 units egg yolks
- 500g cornstarch
- 10g baking powder
- 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 600g dulce de leche
- 1 cup coconut flakes
- Beat the butter until creamy and pale.
- Sift the sugar into the creamy butter and continue mixing to combine.
- Add vanilla and lemon zest and whisk.
- Add egg yolks one by one and mix.
- Sift in the cornstarch and baking powder.
- Gradually incorporate the cornstarch using a spatula.
- Mix until acquiring a soft and smooth dough.
- Wrap the dough in plastic film and flatten it into a sort of disk shape. Place it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- Place the wrapped dough disk on a surface. Unwrap the top surface and keep the plastic film underneath the dough disk. Carefully roll the dough out to a thickness of no more than 5 mm (less than 1/4 inch).
- Using a 5 cm (2 inch) round cookie cutter, cut out the dough in circles.
- Flip each circle onto your hand and then peel the plastic film away.
- Place circles on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Transfer the baking tray to the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes. Heat the oven to 190°/200° celsius – 375°/392° fahrenheit.
- Bake cookies for 5-8 minutes. Take them from oven while still pale. Cookies should not be brown. Set them on cooling rack.
- Spread a generous dollop of dulce de leche. Finish the spread with a swirl move. Place another cookie on top to sandwich them. Do not squeeze or press them together.
- Spread a thin layer of dulce the leche on sides.
- Roll cookie on coconut flakes and enjoy!