June 27, 2011
I've eaten my fair share of alfajores, I'll confess that now. Two buttery cookies sandwiched with gooey dulce de leche, then rolled in coconut along the edges, dipped in a bath of white or dark chocolate, or simply dusted in a blanket confectioner's sugar–who among us can resist such a sweet?
But I thought all alfajores were pretty much the same–with more or less the aforementioned combination. That is, until Katie at Seashells and Sunflowers invited a group of bloggers (myself included) to participate in a round up of Regional Alfajores.
As it turns out, every region has its own twist on the traditional alfajor–there are Alfajores Marplatenses from the coastal Buenos Aires province and the area around Mar del Plata–represented by Katie, who followed her sweetheart from the U.S. to Necochea. Aledys, who followed her sweetheart to the Netherlands and writes her blog, From Argentina to the Netherlands, For Love! writes about Alfajores Cordobeses, hailing from her home province of Cordoba. Meag at A Domestic Disturbance is writing about the alfajor from the province of Santa Fe, Alfajores Santafesinos, while Ana from Ana Travels writes about Alfajores de Maicena, and Paula from Bee My Chef (she's also a contributor at Buenos Aires Foodies) made Alfajores Salteños from the province of Salta. Please visit my fellow contributor's blogs to see their delicious riffs on the regional alfajor!
As for the Alfajor Mendocino, in digging around I found a number of unique takes on 'traditional' alfajores. Some were made in a rectangular shape, filled with strawberry jam, some with arrope, a honey syrup, and some dipped in white chocolate–very different from the usual idea of alfajores.
The most typical alfajor from the province of Mendoza is infused with just a hint of anise, filled with sticky dulce de leche, and coated with a sugary meringue called baño blanco. I love the adaptations of this cookie whose origins go as far back as the Moorish occupation of Spain, and I hope you enjoy this version, as well as the regional alfajores of my fellow bloggers!
This recipe makes about 2 dozen small (2-inch) or 1 dozen large (3-inch) alfajores. The dough can easily be doubled, and the baño blanco makes enough to cover 4 dozen small alfajores. I made these bite-sized alfajores using the rim of an egg cup, you can use a juice glass or any size round cookie cutter. The dough freezes well for up to 2 months, and the prepared alfajores can be stored in an air-tight container for about a week.
For the cookies:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
3 eggs, separated (reserve 2 of the whites for making the baño blanco)
2 tablespoons anisette (anise liqueur)
2 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dulce de leche (homemade or storebought)
cooking spray or additional butter for cookie sheets
For the baño blanco:
1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, whites only
In a medium mixing bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, yolks, butter, anisette and sugar. Combine the wet ingredients with the dry, and stir until a uniform dough has been made. Form the dough into a ball (it will be sticky), wrap in saran wrap, and refrigerate for at least a half hour or up to overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Using cooking spray or butter, grease a cookie sheet. Generously flour a countertop or work surface and roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick. If the dough is sticking to the counter, remove the dough, put down more flour, and roll out the dough again.
Using a round cutter, (egg cup or juice glass also work) cut the cookie rounds out of the dough and put them on the baking sheet. Ball up the remaining dough and repeat the rolling and cutting process until the dough has been used up. If you fill a cookie sheet and put it in to bake and have dough leftover, replace the dough into the refrigerator until you roll it out and bake it. (This keeps the dough from rising too much). Put the cookies in the oven and bake for 10 minutes (maybe 12 minutes if you are making the larger sized cookies.) They should not brown on the bottom or edges, but they should be dry on top when you tap them. Remove to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
Fill a pastry bag with the dulce de leche (or just smear about a teaspoon or more onto a cookie) and pipe a heaping teaspoon of dulce de leche onto one cookie. Place another cookie on top, making sandwiching the two cookies with the dulce de leche in between.
To make the baño blanco, combine the sugar and the water in a small sauce pan and heat over medium-high heat until it reaches a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar in the water, and continue to boil until the sugar syrup thickens slightly, about ten minutes. When spooned, it should be thick enough to create a 'thread' of syrup drizzling back into the pan, but not thick enough to be caramelized.
Meanwhile, beat the reserved egg whites with a beater on medium high speed until they stiffen slightly and are white and fluffy, about three to five minutes. When the sugar syrup is to the right consistency, slowly drizzle it into the bowl with the egg whites, beating continuously. You will have a glossy creamy meringue. It shouldn't be stiff, rather, able to be painted on to the alfajores. Using a pastry brush, paint the outside of the alfajores with the meringue. Set on a cookie sheet or work surface lined with wax paper and let dry for several hours.or overnight. The baño blanco will eventually be a dry crust on the outside of the alfajores.