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What in an Alfajor?

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  • Written By: Devon Pryor
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2016
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An alfajor is a type of cookie commonly found in South American countries, and in Spain. A Spanish alfajor, though it has the same name, is quite different than the alfajores of South America. The Spanish alfajor is a pastry made with honey, almonds, and spices, and is usually consumed during the Christmas holiday. South American alfajores are made with layers of cookie or cake-like confection, most commonly two layers, in between which there is a filling of some kind or another.

The filling in the middle is what makes an alfajor an alfajor. In fact, the word alfajor is derived an Arabic word meaning filled or stuffed. As its etymological roots suggest, the alfajor confection originated in the Middle East. It is thought that the alfajor was brought to from the Middle East to the Iberian Peninsula, and from there, to South America. The alfajor has been highly popular in South America since the middle of the 20th century, especially in the countries of Argentina and Uruguay. The alfajor is also particularly popular in Peru, but can be found in Ecuador, Paraguay and Brazil as well.

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The most common type of South American alfajor is made with two white-flour cookies joined together with a dulce de leche filling. Other fillings include jam, chocolate, or a filling called manjar blanco, which is made from milk and similar to dulce de leche, but is white instead of caramel-colored. In some alfajores, the cookie or cake layer is chocolate flavored.

The alfajor may be bare, or have a coating of powdered sugar, chocolate, white chocolate. Another coating found on many alfajores is meringue, a crispy coating made from sugar and egg whites. This type of coating is known as a “snow coating,” because it looks like white peaks of snow. An afajor with a meringue covering is called an “alfajor de nieve,” which means snow alfajor. When the alfajor has no coating, it will often be rolled in coconut shavings, which adhere to the sticky dulce de leche filling, and prevent the filling from getting all over the place.

An “alfahor triple” is an alfajor that is double layered, with a third cookie in the middle. One very popular and widely known maker of alfajores is Havanna. Havanna stores offer alfajores in the traditional flavors, including the typical “black alfajores,” which are coated in dark chocolate, and the “white alfajores,” which are coated in white chocolate. Other more creative combinations include peanuts and walnuts.

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ladyjane
Post 7

I made a batch of alfajor chocolate cookies for my sister-in-laws bridal shower. Her family is from Peru and to my excitement they gave my version of their street cookie great reviews.

I added some melted semi-sweet chocolate chips to the cookie dough to make a crunchy chocolate cookie. Then I melted about three ounces of chips with one cup of dulce de leche and a tablespoon of butter in the microwave. You have to stop and stir about every thirty seconds until it's creamy and smooth.

After I put the filling in the center of each cookie sandwich, I rolled half of them in crushed almonds and the other half in crushed peanuts and then sprinkled each cookie with confectioner's sugar.

One member of her family admitted that it's difficult to improve on something as delicious as a Havanna alfajor, but that somehow I had managed to do just that.

turquoise
Post 6

@feruze-- Have you tried Latin American cafes and restaurants? I know that the East Coast is pretty rich in international restaurants. That might be the best way to get a hold of fresh alfajor, although it may be a bit pricier that way.

If you can't find any that way, you can always purchase them online. There are many online grocers selling Latin American foods. I haven't purchased alfajor, but have bought Latin American breads and cakes online.

I'm sure you can find one not too far from where you live. The less the shipping time, the fresher it most likely will be if they are baking it themselves. If it's packaged alfajor, you can get it from anywhere. It shouldn't make much of a difference with freshness.

bear78
Post 5

I had alfajor once when A Latin American friend brought some to a party. He had just returned from a trip home and was kind enough to share his treats with us. They were pre-made but surprisingly very fresh and very delicious. It was the bitter chocolate kind with chocolate coating.

I've looked for it at International and Latin American markets but can't seem to find any. I'm craving it big time! Baking it is out of the question as I have no competency in that area.

Anyone know where I can get some good, fresh alfajor on the East Coast?

SteamLouis
Post 4

@whitesand-- That was my favorite kind of alfajor when I was traveling in Argentina.

I was actually kind of confused about the different alfajors I ate there because there were so many different types. Not only did they have different names based on the filling and coating, but also the type of cookie. I couldn't keep track of all the names but I know that I loved everything with dulce de leche filling and that's what I would ask for at pastry shops. It is very creamy but not extremely sweet, which is why I love it.

Markus
Post 3

@whitesand - Dulce de leche is a thick milk-based caramel looking sauce that is often described as milk candy. It is the delicious creamy center of the alfajor cookie.

The basic recipe for making dulce de leche calls for simmering milk and sugar slowly for several hours while stirring the mixture constantly. The desired results should be a thick caramel colored marmalade.

There are several home-made versions out there and one in particular has been adopted by many other countries including the United States. It's done by simply boiling an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk for about three hours.

One word of caution though, the can will explode if you allow all the water to boil away and leave the can unattended in the hot pan.

whitesand
Post 2

What exactly is dulce de leche and how do you make it?

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