Alfajores de Manjor Blanco
The alfajor, a traditional Spanish and Latin American cookie, is a sandwich cookie filled with delicious dulce de leche. Sometimes it is sprinkled with powdered sugar, rolled in coconut, or coated in chocolate.
My friend, Theresa, introduced me to this cookie. It was Christmas time and we got together for our annual all-day cookie making fest. Each year we choose a cookie that we haven't made before. She chose alfajores. Although I was skeptical as I watched her make this cookie, I fell in love with it after the first taste. Her version was coated in chocolate and rolled in coconut. It was delicious. Since then, I've been obsessed with finding the perfect alfajores recipe.
There are hundreds of alfajores recipes and each country and region has its own version. The cookie part is made different ways; some recipes using sugar, butter, flour, and cornstarch (alfajores de maizana) and others just using sugar, butter and flour. The recipe below is from Peru and it uses more of a shortbread or butter cookie. I sprinkled the alfajores with powdered sugar but you could dip them in chocolate as well.
Makes about 24 alfajores
For the Manjar Blanco or Dulce de Leche:
- 4 cups of whole milk
- 2 cups of granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- pinch of cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
For the Alfajores:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup confectioner’ sugar, plus more for sifting
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup dulce de leche
- Finely grated dried coconut (optional)
Step 1: To make the manjar blanco or dulce de leche: Over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil in a heavy 4 quart sauce pan. Add sugar, vanilla bean, and cinnamon being sure to stir the sugar with a whisk until it’s completely dissolved. Otherwise, your Dulce de Leche will have a gritty consistency.
Step 2: Once the sugar has dissolved, add the baking soda and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered at a bare simmer. Stir occasionally, but do not re-incorporate the foam that appears on the top of the mixture. Continue to cook for 1 hour.
Step 3: Remove the vanilla bean after 1 hour and continue to cook until the mixture is a dark caramel color and has reduced to about 1 cup, approximately 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to a month.
Step 4: For the Alfajores: In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and confectioners sugar until smooth.
Step 5: Beat in the egg yolks. Add the zest and vanilla extract and mix well.
Step 6: Sift the flour and baking powder, then mix into the butter mixture to make a dough that is soft but not runny. If it is too soft, add some more flour. Form into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Step 7: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment
Step 8: On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thick and cut into 1 1/2 -inch rounds. Place on the prepared cookie sheet and bake until set, about 10 minutes; the cookies should not color at all.
Step 9: Remove from the sheet and let cool on wire racks.
Step 10: Spread one cookie with dulce de leche and press a cookie on top. If desired, spread dulce de leche around the sides of the cookie and roll in the grated coconut. Or just sift confectioner’s sugar on top.
Repeat with the remaining cookies and dulce de leche
Great alfajores in Sausalito