Alfajores are a delectable treat that originated in Spain and have become a beloved dessert in many Latin American countries. These sweet and delicate cookies are made with a buttery dough and filled with a creamy dulce de leche. In this article, we will explore the history of alfajores, the different variations across Latin America, and provide you with a step-by-step recipe to make your own mouthwatering alfajores at home.

The History of Alfajores

The origins of alfajores can be traced back to the Moorish influence in Spain during the Middle Ages. The Moors introduced almonds, honey, and spices to the Iberian Peninsula, which greatly influenced the cuisine of the region. The word “alfajor” is derived from the Arabic word “al-hasú,” meaning “filled.” These early versions of alfajores were made with almonds, honey, and spices, and were often enjoyed as a treat during special occasions.

When the Spanish colonizers arrived in Latin America, they brought with them their culinary traditions, including the recipe for alfajores. Over time, the recipe evolved to incorporate local ingredients and flavors, resulting in the unique variations of alfajores found in different countries across the region.

Variations of Alfajores in Latin America

Argentinian Alfajores

Argentinian alfajores are perhaps the most well-known and widely enjoyed variation of this delicious treat. They are made with a delicate shortbread-like dough, often flavored with lemon zest or vanilla extract. The dough is rolled out and cut into small rounds, which are then baked until golden. The traditional filling for Argentinian alfajores is dulce de leche, a rich and creamy caramel-like spread made from condensed milk. The edges of the cookies are usually coated in shredded coconut, giving them a delightful texture and flavor.

Peruvian Alfajores

In Peru, alfajores are made with a slightly different dough compared to their Argentinian counterparts. Peruvian alfajores are softer and more crumbly, resembling a cross between a cookie and a cake. The dough is often flavored with Pisco, a grape brandy that is popular in Peru. The filling for Peruvian alfajores can vary, but it typically includes dulce de leche or manjar blanco, a similar caramel spread made from sweetened condensed milk. These alfajores are often dusted with powdered sugar for an extra touch of sweetness.

Uruguayan Alfajores

Uruguayan alfajores are similar to Argentinian alfajores in terms of their dough and filling. However, they are typically smaller in size and have a smoother texture. The dough is made with cornstarch, which gives the cookies a delicate and melt-in-your-mouth consistency. The filling is usually dulce de leche, and the edges are coated in powdered sugar. Uruguayan alfajores are often enjoyed with a cup of mate, a traditional South American herbal tea.

Recipe: How to Make Alfajores at Home

Now that you know about the different variations of alfajores, it’s time to try making them yourself! Here is a step-by-step recipe to guide you through the process:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Dulce de leche for filling
  • Shredded coconut or powdered sugar for coating

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, and baking powder.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a soft dough forms.
  4. Divide the dough into two equal portions and shape each portion into a disk. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the dough disks to a thickness of about 1/4 inch.
  7. Using a round cookie cutter, cut out cookies and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  8. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until they are lightly golden around the edges.
  9. Allow the cookies to cool completely before assembling the alfajores.
  10. To assemble the alfajores, spread a generous amount of dulce de leche on the bottom side of one cookie and sandwich it with another cookie.
  11. Optional: Roll the edges of the alfajores in shredded coconut or dust them with powdered sugar.
  12. Repeat the process with the remaining cookies.
  13. Enjoy your homemade alfajores!

Q&A

1. Can I use a different filling for my alfajores?

Absolutely! While dulce de leche is the traditional filling for alfajores, you can get creative and experiment with different flavors. Some popular alternatives include Nutella, fruit preserves, or even a chocolate ganache.

2. Can I make the dough in advance and refrigerate it overnight?

Yes, you can prepare the dough ahead of time and refrigerate it overnight. This will allow the flavors to develop and make the dough easier to work with. Just make sure to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.

3. How long do alfajores stay fresh?

Alfajores can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. However, they are best enjoyed within the first few days when the cookies are still crisp and the filling is at its creamiest.

4. Can I freeze alfajores?

Yes, you can freeze alfajores for up to three months. Just make sure to place them in an airtight container or freezer bag to prevent freezer burn. Thaw them at room temperature before serving.

5. Are alfajores gluten-free?

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