In Argentina, I think it’s fair to say that other than steak and empanadas, the sweet and sickly dulce de leche is one of the most commonly-found foodstuffs. The thick and sugary caramel is a deliciously naughty treat used in all type of desserts and pastries around Argentina. You might be served it at breakfast alongside the preserves, find it in a cookie with your mid-morning coffee, or order a dulce de leche gelato in the evening.
Either way, Argentinians can’t get enough of the stuff. And it doesn’t stop there either. Bolivia, Peru and many other Latin American countries treat dulce de leche as a prime dessert ingredient.
In bakeries, delicatessens, sweet shops and cafés all over Argentina, Bolivia and Peru you will find alfajores, little caramel-filled cookies of different shapes and sizes. Alfajores are enjoyed all over the continent, with different variations in size, shape and recipe. Filled with dulce de leche (or manjar blanco in Peru), I was dying to try out a recipe for the sweet caramel cookies.
Alfajores with Dulce-de-leche
- 250g self-raising flour
- 250g cornflour
- 50g icing sugar
- 150g margarine (room temperature)
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tbsp milk
For the dulce de leche
- 400g sweetened condensed milk
Dulce de leche is easily made by boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk for a few hours. Simply take the label off the unopened can and submerge in boiling water, leaving to boil for the required time. Depending on how soft you want the dulce de leche, it takes between 1½ – 3 hours of boiling the can. In this recipe, a firmer dulce de leche is required so I recommend boiling it for at least 2 hours. Make sure that the can is fully-submerged in water at all times. Leave the can to cool fully before opening it.
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease a large baking sheet and line with baking paper.
The alfajores biscuits are similar to shortbread in texture and taste. These particular ones are made using cornflour, which gives them a powdery dry texture. To make the dough, start by sifting the flour, cornflour and 3 tablespoons of the icing sugar into a large mixing bowl. Rub in the margarine until it is all mixed in evenly. Add the egg yolk and then half of the milk, kneading the ingredients lightly. It may be quite crumbly at first, so add the rest of the milk gradually until a soft but film dough is made.
Roll out the dough onto a work surface dusted with flour. Roll it out evenly until the dough is roughly half an inch thick. If the dough is too thick, the cookies may not cook properly in time. Using a circular pasty cutter, cut out as many circles as you can get and place them on the baking sheet. Prick each cookie with a fork and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden.
Once baked, leave the cookies to cool completely, before spreading them with even amounts of dulce de leche, and sandwiching them together. Gently dust the rest of the icing sugar over the top of the alfajores and serve.