During my trip to South America, I commonly found biscuit treats called Alfajores. Alfajores is made of two crumbly biscuits sandwiched together by Dulce de Leche. Dulce de leche is a thick sweet paste with the colour and flavour similar to caramel. It is found in every grocery store in South America but can also easily be made at home. It is essentially milk and sugar or what we know as condensed milk. The quick way of making dulce de leche is to simmer a closed can of condensed milk fully submerged in water (with the water being 1-2 inches higher than the can) for two to three hours. The longer you leave it the thicker and darker it gets.
The special thing about alfajores is that the dough includes corn flour. This is important because it’s what gives the biscuits a silky, crumbly texture. You can also dress your Alfajores as you like: you could cover them in chocolate or you could roll the biscuits in desiccated coconut – or both. If the biscuits are not covered in chocolate, only the dulce de leche in between the biscuits will collect the desiccated coconut.
I decided to have a go at making the dough myself because store-bought shortcrust pastry doesn’t quite cut it. Again, the trick is to use corn flour, which you can mix with plain flour.
Quantity: 12 sandwich biscuits
Time: 1 hour 45
*I N G R E D I E N T S*
- 130g cornstarch
- 100g all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp fine salt
- 225g butter
- 45g granulated sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 tbsp cognac
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 115g dulce de leche, at room temperature
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
*M E T H O D*
- Place the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and combine; set aside.
- Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl once with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is light in colour and fluffy, about 3 minutes. If you don’t have a mixer, be prepared to work your muscles.
- Add the egg yolks, brandy, and vanilla and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, gradually add the reserved flour mixture and mix until just incorporated with no visible white pockets, about 30 seconds.
- Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape it into a smooth disk, and wrap it tightly. Place in the refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180°C and arrange a rack in the middle. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Roll to 1/4-inch thickness (the dough will crack but can be easily patched back together). Stamp out 24 rounds using a plain or fluted 2-inch round cutter, rerolling the dough as necessary until all of it is gone.
- Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheets, 12 per sheet and at least 1/2 inch apart. Bake 1 sheet at a time until the biscuits are firm and pale golden on the bottom, about 12 to 14 minutes. (The biscuits will remain pale on top.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Flip half of the biscuits upside down and gently spread about 2 teaspoons of the dulce de leche on each. Place a second biscuit on top and gently press to create a sandwich. Dust generously with powdered sugar before serving.