Arabian in origin and brought to Argentina by the Spanish, the ‘alfajor’ has evolved over time and you will find it in every café, ‘kiosco’ (kiosk) and home. This classic version is filled with dulce de leche and sprinkled with coconut.
- 275 g (9½ oz/1 cup) Dulce de leche (recipe here)
- 180 g (6½ oz/2 cups) desiccated coconut
- 2 tbsp icing (confectioners’) sugar
- 120 g (4 oz) cornflour (cornstarch)
- 450 g (1 lb/3 cups) plain (allpurpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- 250 g (9 oz) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 150 g (5½ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
- 4 egg yolks, beaten
- 1 tbsp marsala
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time: 1 hour
1. To make the shortbread, combine the cornflour, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 4–5 minutes, until pale and creamy. Scrape the side of the bowl and beat for another minute. Add the egg yolks, marsala and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes, until well combined. Scrape the side of the bowl, then fold through the flour mixture until well combined (you may need to transfer the wet mixture to a larger bowl to do this). Divide the dough into two equal-sized portions, form into two balls and briefly knead on a lightly floured work surface. Shape into two flattened discs, separately wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. The pastry can be made 1–2 days in advance; if doing so, remove the dough from the fridge 1 hour before making the alfajores.
3. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a baking tray with baking paper. Roll one portion of dough out on a lightly floured work surface to a 3-mm (1⁄8 in) thick circle. Using a 7 cm (2¾ in) round cookie cutter, cut out 12 discs. This is a very soft dough, so the discs need to be handled with care. Use a palette knife to gently transfer the rounds of dough to the prepared tray and bake for 10–12 minutes, until lightly golden. Gently transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough and allow to cool completely.
4. Spread 1 tablespoon of the dulce de leche on half the shortbread discs and top with the remaining discs. Gently press together.
5. Roll the alfajores in the desiccated coconut, so it sticks to the dulce de leche. Finely sieve the icing sugar over the top and serve. Alfajores will keep in an airtight container for 2–3 days.
Recipe from The Food of Argentina by Ross Dobson and Rachel Tolosa Paz, Smith Street Books, RRP $44.99