Popular all over Latin America, dulce de leche confections called alfajores come in many varieties. Here is my twist on this beloved classic, halvah-caramel alfajores; delicate butter cookies with an irresistible halvah-caramel center and dusted with powdered sugar that will make you swoon at first bite. I’m totally serious, this is the cookie to kick off cookie season with.
As far back as the 8th century, an early form of the alfajor existed in the Middle East. It was referred to as “alajú,” which is the Arabic word meaning “stuffed” or “filled”. This cookie consisted of dried fruit preserves that were rolled in dough before getting rolled in sugar or nuts. When the Moors traveled from the Middle East to Spain, they brought this popular cookie with them. And soon Spaniards started making their very own version, but theirs was a cylindrical cookie covered in almonds or powdered sugar that they named “alfajor”.
Around the 16th century, when Spaniards began migrating to South America, they entered through the Rio de la Plata, which flows between Argentina and Uruguay. As they launched their conquests into the New World, they brought their traditional foods to the river banks, which included their beloved alfajores.
People in South America soon began creating their own versions, with each region developing an adaptation of its own. This involved replacing the nuts and fruit of the Spanish version with fillings like dulce de leche and fruit marmalade. They also thickened the dough to make shortbread-style cookies and started dipping the sandwich cookies in chocolate.
The most common alfajores tend to be filled with dulce de leche, but chocolate mousse, fruit, and cream are other popular fillings. Alfajores can be found topped with a meringue coating, milk chocolate, coconut or a simple sugar glaze.
If you’ve never had alfajores, homemade or otherwise, you’re missing out. It’s time to see why people around the world have been eating these delectable sandwich cookies for centuries.
- 1 (9-ounce) jar Frans Caramel Sauce
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- dash sea salt
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons marble Halvah (Joyva brand)
- 2 egg yolks
- Confectioners sugar, for dusting
- Step 1 In a large bowl add the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.
- Step 2 In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the butter, sugar and halvah and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Next, add the egg yolks and beat until blended. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until the dough just comes together.
- Step 3 Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, at least 2 hours.
- Step 4 Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from plastic wrap and on a well floured surface, roll out the dough about 1/4″ think. Using a small 1 1/2-inch cutter, cut out rounds and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining dough. Place in the oven and bake until edges start to turn lightly golden, about 7 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely.
- Step 5 Once cool, place 1/2 teaspoon of the caramel sauce into the flat side of the cookie. Repeat this process with one half of the cookies.
- Step 6 Top with remaining cookies to sandwich the caramel in the middle. Store in the refrigerator until serving. Right before serving, dust lightly with confections sugar.
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