These are the best Alfajores recipe you will ever make! True story. Because I know a lot about these cornstarch cookies filled with gooey dulce de leche, and these are the most traditional and perfect of them all. A recipe to treasure forever.
I know alfajores
I'm from Argentina and, as I told you in the post about Walnut Alfajores, we are the biggest consumers of these sweets snacks worldwide. So trust me when I say that as far as traditional cornstarch alfajores go, this is the only recipe you'll ever need. Ever!
The original hails from a 90-year old cookbook from Doña Petrona (our own Julia Child) and is still the recipe we all adapt. Sort of like the chocolate chip cookies recipe from Toll House. It's where they all start, isn't it?
So, that said, let's get into the nitty-gritty of this recipe.
What are alfajores?
An alfajor (singular) is a sandwich made of two discs of dough with a filling in between. A sandwich cookie, or a wagon wheel with a different filling, depending on what type of alfajor.
They are very popular in South America, especially Argentina, Perú, and Uruguay.
The most traditional ones are two: one made with cornstarch shortbread cookies with coconut on the sides, and the other is made with vanilla dough and covered with dark chocolate. Both are filled with dulce de leche, of course.
Today we're making our beloved cornstarch alfajores, filled with dulce de leche and sides rolled in flaked coconut.
- Cornstarch: it's essential for that crumbly texture.
- Unsalted butter.
- Sugar: white, granulated sugar.
- Eggs: large, fresh.
- All-purpose flour.
- Salt: I like to use kosher salt for my recipes, but regular salt also works.
- Baking powder: make sure it's active and not expired.
- Vanilla - I use pure vanilla extract or pure vanilla paste when available, but a good vanilla essence (artificially flavored) also works.
- Lemon zest: freshly grated. A small amount is needed.
- Cognac: you can also use brandy or whisky. If you don't want alcohol, omit it, but it evaporated during baking but leaves behind a wonderful flavor.
About the liquor: this recipe has a magic flavoring trio that is lemon, vanilla, and cognac (or brandy, or whisky). The synergy that results when combining these three flavors is one for the books. None of them is the star but together they are magic.
I specifically want to acknowledge the flavoring in this recipe.
- It has 3 components: lemon zest, vanilla extract, and cognac (or brandy).
Though there is nothing special about them, when you add all three to a recipe - in the right proportions, of course - the result is fantastic! None shine on its own but there is a deep, caramel, fresh flavor that I think it's unmatched.
It's not vanilla, it's not lemon, it's not caramel, it is magic. Maybe that's stretching it a bit? Well, you can be the judge of that. I plan on adding them to most of my simple cakes.
It reminds me of the flavor of red velvet cake. What does it taste like? What is so special about it? It simply has a fabulous flavor. This magic trio reminds me of that.
The alfajores dough: it is a simple vanilla dough with cornstarch. It sounds easy and it is. It's all about the right proportions of flour and cornstarch.
- By hand: I use a large bowl and a whisk and a spatula. If the butter is soft, mixing everything is simple.
- Electric mixer: you can use a handheld mixer but make sure you use it at low speed. This is not a dough that needs beating or anything like it. If you use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix at the lowest speed.
- Cream butter with sugar and then add egg yolks and egg.
- Add the flavorings.
- Dry ingredients: also called flour mixture, are added in 2 parts so it's easier to integrate them well.
- Final dough: it's soft to the touch and neither sticky nor dry (image 4). It needs to be refrigerated before rolling.
Rolling the dough
After refrigerating the dough for a few hours, it's time to roll and cut.
This dough is soft and very easy to manage. So a lightly floured counter and a good rolling pin are all you need.
Cookie cutters: I use small round cutters, which is the traditional shape of an alfajor. The dough doesn't change much during baking, and the cookies will mostly keep their shape, so you can, technically, use other forms. Still, I recommend using simple patterns like stars or hearts.
Baking the alfajores
These are light-colored cookies so bake until barely starting to color. Don't be tempted to bake them longer as they will be too crisp and won't soften as they should.
Fill with as much dulce de leche as you can!
What is dulce de leche?
Dulce de leche is a sweet milk jam, a cousin to caramel, made with milk, sugar, and baking soda, the latter being accountable for its dark color. It takes a few hours to make and there are as many tips and tricks as there are grandmothers in this country. Each with its own recipe.
We have an abundance of brands and styles, pretty much like peanut butter in the US. So we use it a lot as you might imagine.
The flavor is very sweet, similar to caramel but not quite. It does have a milk undertone, something that caramel lacks, and some might say it’s not as sophisticated, and they might be right. I’m a raving fan so my opinion is biased.
IMPORTANT: for fillings you need to use what we call pastry dulce de leche. It's much thicker than the regular kind. Look for the word Repostero on the label. The best one available online (that we also use here!) is Vacalin Dulce de Leche Repostero. Another good one is Veronica dulce de leche repostero. If you want to buy in bulk a great one is San Ignacio repostero (22 pounds) or also Vacalin repostero (22 pounds).
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Filling the alfajores
The traditional filling was, is, and will always be dulce de leche.
But we're talking about simple cornstarch cookies with an indefinite and unique flavor, so the fillings you can use are many. But please try these as per the recipe below at least once. You will understand why we love them SO much! Like obsessively much.
Piping bag: you can use it with a smooth, plain piping tip for a more even filling, or use a teaspoon (image 7) and get more of an irregular filling.
After you fill the cookies I like to pass the bottom of a teaspoon around the edges (image 8). This will even out the dulce de leche that overflowed when you pressed down the top cookie and make it easier for the coconut to adhere. You can skip this step of course, but the alfajores will be easier to handle.
Rolling the sides in unsweetened shredded coconut is the way these beauties roll.
Coconut and dulce de leche are a match made in heaven. Truly spectacular! There are a few examples in this blog, such as the dulce de leche fudge truffles or the coconut lemon tart if you want to try out this combination.
But, recipes aside, I am a hard fan of the dulce de leche filling.
Coconut border: this step (image below), on the other hand, is completely optional in my opinion. It pairs fantastically with the rest of the ingredients, but they are amazing without it too. So, don't buy shredded coconut just for this.
I sure do hope you try this recipe for cornstarch alfajores.
It is easy and they are incredibly delicious. I imagine many of you never tried them, so trust me when I say the flavor is amazing and that they will become a favorite fast.
- Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
- Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Make-ahead: as with most cookie doughs, it can be made ahead and kept for 4-5 days in the refrigerator or up to a month in the freezer. Always make sure you wrap it well in clingy plastic. Otherwise, the top layer will dry out.
- Keeping: the cookies can be kept in an airtight container for about a week. Fill them several hours ahead of the time you're planning to eat them so they have time to soften a little. Take into account that the dulce de leche transfers moisture to the cornstarch cookies and they will be softer when you bite into them.
- Eat them and be very happy.
Related recipes you might like:
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- 11 tablespoons (150g) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) regular white sugar (not powdered sugar)
- 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon cognac (or brandy or whiskey)
- 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (250g) cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch of salt
- A few drops of vanilla extract
- Zest of ⅓ lemon
- 1 cup of Dulce de leche (it should be the thick type or 'repostero') See Notes below
- Unsweetened shredded coconut, for garnish (optional)
- Mix butter and sugar in a large bowl, until very creamy, using a spatula or handheld mixer, or a wooden spoon.
- Add egg yolks and whole egg and mix well to incorporate.
- Add cognac, vanilla, and lemon zest. Mix well.
- Add the sifted flour, baking powder, salt, and cornstarch gradually, mixing very well until no streaks of dry ingredients remain. The final dough will be very soft and silky but not sticky.
- Pat it into a disc, wrap the dough in plastic wrap or freezer sheets, and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, like any sweet dough. At this point, it can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for a month, always well wrapped to prevent dryness.
- Preheat oven to 170ºC / 325ºF.
- On a floured surface, roll dough to ½ cm thick (about ¼ inch).
- Using a round cookie cutter, cut circles and place them on a buttered cookie tray or use a Silpat. In my experience, they tend to stick when using parchment paper, but then, all papers are different depending on where you live. Thickness and size are totally up to you; I suggest you try different combinations and see which one works best for your taste.
- Gather the scraps, roll them again and cut more alfajores cookies until you use up all the dough.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes or until barely starting to color. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
- Put a tablespoon of dulce de leche (with a spoon or with a piping bag) and fill one round, flat side up. Press lightly with another round, flat side down forming the alfajores.
- With the back of a small spoon, wipe any dulce de leche that has overflowed. This will leave a path for the coconut to stick.
- Put unsweetened coconut on a small plate and roll the alfajores so that they're evenly coated. Or leave the sides plain.
- Eat them and be happy.
Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
Make-ahead: as with most cookie doughs, it can be made ahead and kept for 4-5 days in the refrigerator or up to a month in the freezer. Always make sure you wrap it well in clingy plastic. Otherwise, the top layer will dry out.
Keeping: the cookies can be kept in an airtight container for about a week. Fill them several hours ahead of the time you're planning to eat them so they have time to soften a little. Take into account that the dulce de leche transfers moisture to the cornstarch cookies and they will be softer when you bite into them.
Dulce de leche: the type of dulce de leche you use is everything if you want the filling not to leak after you assemble the alfajores. We use what is called 'repostero' which loosely translates to pastry dulce de leche, because it's used for baking and confections. It's thickened, similar to peanut butter, so it will never drip. The best brand is Vacalin dulce de leche repostero, which you can buy online and is the one most of us use here. I highly recommend it.
Size and thickness: they can be made as small 2-inch rounds or up to 4-inches. Play around with size and thickness until you find your favorite.
Keeping: the plain cookies can be kept in airtight containers for about a week. Fill them several hours ahead of the time you're planning to eat them. Take into account that the dulce de leche transfers moisture to the cornstarch cookies and they will soften after a while. That, in my opinion, is not a bad thing at all!
Fillings: you can use jams or ganache or cookie butter spreads or nut butter. But dulce de leche will turn them into the most amazing alfajores ever.
- Prep Time: 30
- Cook Time: 10
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Argentinian
- Serving Size: 1/25
- Calories: 185
- Sugar: 14.1 g
- Sodium: 21.2 mg
- Fat: 7 g
- Carbohydrates: 28.1 g
- Protein: 1.9 g
- Cholesterol: 40.4 mg
Keywords: alfajores, cornstarch alfajores