I recently baked up some shortbread cookies called Alfajores. These delicately soft shortbread cookies sandwiched with the sweet, rich, and creamy filling of the milk caramel Dulce de Leche make for one helluva cookie.
What are Alfajores?
Alfajores are deliciously unique in that they’re delicate shortbread cookies sandwiched with a thick layer of luxurious dulce de leche filling.
They are originally from South America. And those of us in North America should definitely be making these more often!
These are especially delicious and special when homemade dulce de leche is used. Trust me, it's totally worthwhile spending the time to make the filling yourself!
What makes these cookies unique?
The cookies are made using lots of cornstarch. So much so that I had to do a double-take when the recipes I was reading called for almost equal parts flour and cornstarch - a full 1 cup of cornstarch!
And the contrast of the tender baked cookie with the creamy dulce de leche is like nothing I’ve tasted before. Some alfajores are rolled in coconut or dipped in chocolate.
I let them stand on their own by doing neither, however, you should know that’s an option and one probably worth trying!
Tips for Making this Recipe
- The dough for the shortbread cookies is extremely soft. This makes it easy to roll out even when chilled. However, the dough also cracks easily while rolling. This is totally okay and easy to fix. Simply smoosh the cracks together (I know, very technical lol!) and smooth over with the rolling pin by pressing down with very gentle pressure
- For the filling, the dulce de leche should be room temperature so it’s spreadable. If your filling is loose, you may want to refrigerate it for a few minutes prior to spreading it. Otherwise it'll seep out of the cookie sandwich and create a bit of a mess. The goal is to have spreadable filling that stays in place to create a thick layer of dulce de leche in the middle of two of the shortbread cookies
- I highly recommend applying a very gentle touch when spreading the dulce de leche on the cookies. I sacrificed a few cookies during this process - learn from my mistakes!
- These alfajores are best when they are sandwiched and served right away. If you are making them ahead of when you'll be serving them, I recommend you bake the cookies and keep them stored in an airtight container. Keep them separate from the dulce de leche until you're ready to assemble and serve the cookie sandwiches
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- 1 cup corn starch
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour plus more for dusting your work surface
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon pisco or brandy
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup dulce de leche room temperature
- powdered sugar for dusting
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Add the egg yolks, pisco or brandy, and vanilla and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
- Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated with no visible white pockets of flour, about 30 seconds.
- Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape it into a smooth disk, and wrap it tightly.
- Place in the refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and place rack in the middle position. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a lightly floured work surface.
- Lightly flour the top of the dough.
- With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to ¼-inch thickness (the dough will crack but can be easily patched back together).
- With a 2-inch round or fluted cookie cutter, cut out 24 rounds of dough, rerolling the dough as necessary until all of it is used up.
- Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, 12 per sheet and at least ½ inch apart.
- Bake 1 sheet at a time until the cookies are firm and pale golden on the bottom, about 12 to 14 minutes. (The cookies will remain pale on top)
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Carefully flip half of the cookies upside down (these cookies are very delicate and may break easily, so use care) and very gently spread a thick layer of dulce de leche, about 2 teaspoons, on the upside down cookies.
- Place a second cookie on top and gently press to create a sandwich.
- Dust generously with powdered sugar before serving.
- The shortbread cookies can be baked 5 days ahead. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to fill with dulce de leche and serve
- Once sandwiched together, the cookies will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3 days, but are best eaten within 24 hours of filling
- Recipe slightly adapted from Chowhound
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