This is another Hispanic delight that comes with an origin denomination: Argentina.
But truth be told the alfajores came to America from Spain, during the conquest, and before that they originated at the Arabic cuisine. Its name comes from the term “al-hasú” that means “filling”.
Anyway, when you say alfajores, two regions come to mind: Argentina and Andalusia (Spain). Today’s recipe is the Argentinian, but the Spanish one won’t be far away.
You will need two things, Shortbread Cookies and Dulce de Leche (milk caramel). To make dulce de leche takes time, I will give you the procedure, but you can either buy a can of it or make it yourself by simply cooking a can of sweetened condensed milk until thick and golden colored (3 to 4 hours).
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup (60 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Milk Caramel4 cups (1 quart) (1 liter) whole milk (cow’s or goat’s milk)
¾ cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In one bowl whisk the flour with the salt and in the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer); beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently beat in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Flatten the dough into a disk shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill the dough for at least an hour or until firm.
Preheat oven to 350 ºF with the rack in the middle of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is about ¼ inch thick. Using a lightly floured 2 inch round cookie cutter, cut out rounds. Place on the baking sheets and place in the fridge for about 15 minutes. (This will firm the cookies so they maintain their shape when baked.) Bake for about 7 – 10 minutes, or until cookies are brown around the edges. Cool on a wire rack. Shortbread cookies with keep in an airtight container for about a week.
Milk Caramel (Dulce de Leche)
Put the milk, sugar, corn syrup, baking soda and salt in a heavy-duty 8 quart (8 liter) saucepan or Dutch oven. Place over medium-high heat and bring just to a boil. Watch carefully, and as soon as the milk begins to foam up, stir with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, and reduce heat until the milk is just at a low rolling boil. Continue to cook the milk, stirring the bottom and sides of the saucepan frequently, until the mixture becomes very thick and sticky and caramel colored (this will take about 40 – 60 minutes). It is important to frequently stir the milk so it does not burn.
Note: There are several stages the milk goes through during the cooking process. When the milk first comes to a boil there is a lot of foam. Eventually the foam subsides and after about 15 minutes, the milk turns a light beige color. As it continues to cook, the milk thickens and gets darker in color. Once the Dulce de Leche has been reduced to about 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) remove from heat and strain. Stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool before covering and storing. The Dulce de Leche can be stored in the fridge for a month.
Take two shortbread cookies and sandwich them together with a heaping teaspoon of Dulce de Leche. Sprinkle the tops of the cookies with confectioner’s sugar. Can be covered and stored for a few days in the refrigerator.
Makes about 24 Alfajores cookies.
Source: Joy of baking