My mother has been visiting us in the UK for the past few weeks and so I have taken the opportunity of baking a few Latin American recipes with her and seeing if the results lived up to our the food memories! One of the thing we re-created very successfully were Alfajores.
Alfajores, or Alfajores de Maicena, are basically a kind of shortbread biscuit made using corn flour and glued together with Dulce de Leche and decorated with desiccated coconut. They are wonderfully soft, not too sweet, and seem to just melt in your mouth!
As with many Latin recipes, it is hard to narrow down where they come from, since variations exist in Spain and across South America, but I would say that they probably feature more prominently in Argentina, being that they contain Dulce de Leche, which is hugely popular there.
Dulce de Leche tastes a bit like toffee, but it’s made from boiling milk and sugar for many hours until it turns dark and very tick and sticky, and, again exists across Latin America under many different names, and is used as a spread or to bake cakes and biscuits.
Here’s how to make them…
Dulce de Leche
You can buy it already made if you live near a big enough supermarket that sells international food (here in the UK I often see it in Waitrose), but making it yourself is really very easy.
All you need to do is simmer a tin of Condensed Milk for a few hours. You can either use a Slow Cooker for around 6 hours (on high) or in a pan over the hob on low heat for around 3 hours. Make sure the tin is covered completely with boiling water, and if you can, move it around every hour or so. When you open it, the condensed milk will have turned much darker – that’s Dulce de Leche.
Ingredients for the Alfajores
– 75 gr of butter
– 75 gr of Fair Trade Sugar
– 1 free range egg
– 1 teaspoon of Fair Trade Vanilla essence
– 1/2 teaspoon of the juice of a Fair Trade lemon
– 50 gr of plain flour
– 150 gr of corn flour (or corn-starch)
1) Mix the sugar and butter using a fork, then add the egg, vanilla and lemon juice. Mix well.
2) Sift the flour and corn flour into the wet mixture and knead into a ball. It is the softest dough you will ever touch!
3) Leave it in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.
4) Pre-heat your oven to 160C
5) Take out the dough from the fridge 15 minutes before using, so it’s not too hard to handle.
6) Roll out the dough to a thickness of a centimetre or so.
7) Cut out circles and place on a buttered and floured oven tin.
8) Bake for 12 minutes. They should be very pale when coming out, but to test if they are ready, check that the bottom is not soggy. Leave to cool for a few minutes, until you can comfortably handle them.
9) Smother some Dulce de Leche in between 2 biscuts to glue together, add a bit to the edges and then roll on the coconut.
10) Enjoy with a cup of Fair Trade Tea or Coffee!