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Thursday, December 4, 2008

In Honor of Federico

This post started a long time ago. September 29th to be more precise. I made alfajores and we went to see Federico Aubele and had a great time. I wore a pair of heels in the hopes I will get to dance some tango but instead ended up bear foot, heels in hand. There was a guy in front of the theater begging for money with a sign "why lie, it's for booze" and we bumped into Federico on the corner and I told him how much I loved the show. Then, I woke up the next day to find that my car had been broken into and shortly after left for Chile where I ran into an avalanche of alfajores and never came back to finish this adventure into South American cuisine. Until now. Here is the original post and below it is the continuation.

"I had never gone to a concert to just see the opening act. Until last night that is, when I joined a few friends to see Federico Aubele. I love his music, especially the tango inspired, melancholic pieces on "Grand Hotel Buenos Aires". They were fabulous live! I so much want to go back to dancing tango, I miss it so much! But, anyways, this blog is not about music or dancing but about food - in honor of the concert I decided to cook something from Argentina. After exhaustive exploration of Argentinian cuisine I zeroed in on Alfajores, a type of shortbread cookies with many variations which nevertheless seems like a favorite. I chose a recipe which uses corn starch from Pin In the City:"

Alfajores de maizena (Argentinean Alfajores)(~25 cookies)

3/4 C flour
1 1/4 C corn starch
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 stick butter (1/4 C)
3/8 C sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp cognac/whiskey/rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest from 1/2 lemon
For decoration:
dulce de leche
toasted coconut

Deep down these are really shortbread cookies, but more than half of the flour has been substituted with corn starch, and they have fancied themselves up with some liquor and lemon zest. The texture was slightly different than the usual shortbread cookie... maybe a little finer, more fragile. Prepare them the same way as described here. Chill the dough for a bit and then roll out as thin as possible. I found the dough hard to roll out so mine didn't turn out all that thin but I saw lots of cookies of similar "thickness" on the webs so I couldn't have done all that poorly. Cut out circles or other shapes (I used a 1.5 inch brandy glass) and arrange on a wax-paper-lined baking sheet, giving them some space. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350F. They should be white not golden and the bottoms should be slightly brown. Do not overbake or they will end up too hard. Cool. Sandwich them with 1 tsp dulce de leche and powder them with sugar, roll edgewise in shredded toasted coconut. Or glaze with melted chocolate... or both. Why not.

Now, Argentinean Alfajores are complex... almost sophisticated. The cookie is crumbly, stuck together by the dulce de leche, and the flavors of caramel, coconut, lemon and rum merge beautifully. Ah.

But then come the Chilean Alfajores. At first I was a little disappointed, but then I realized they are a completely different beast. Chilean Alfajores have one goal in their lives - delivering a shot of dulce de leche directly to your blood stream! And while they look similar and have the same filling, this is where the similarities end. Here is the recipe from the Chilean dulce de leche can:

Alfajores de Chile(25-30 cookies)

5 egg yolks
1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C corn starch
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbs orange juice
1 can dulce de leche
powder sugar for dusting

These are just bare bones wafers! Not even sugar in the cookies! Mix the first five ingredient and knead into a very soft dough. Cut in two and roll out as thin as possible on a floured surface. Be careful because the dough has a very high stickiness factor! Unlike the dough for the cookies above, this one was very malleable and rolled out nicely. You want saltine cracker thickness. Again, cut, place on a wax paper-lined baking sheet and bake 5-7 minutes at 300F. The cookies will be hard and very slightly golden but mostly white. Cool and sandwich with the dulce de leche. Dust with powder sugar. Eat.

See? I told you. Simple dulce de leche delivery mechanisms. No fuss, no complications.

Either way, the bottom line is that alfajores are fabulous. Amazing. And I feel like dancing tango again. Ah. I think there is one more cookie left.... I'll take what I can get.


Vivo said...

Your Alfajores look so delicious! I will definitely try this recipe.

Gabe's Girl said...

I have just recently heard of Alfajores. I can hardly wait to bake them for my hubby and friends. I love exotic and different.

Maya said...

How long will these keep?

Ivastar said...

Thank you all for the comments!

These need to be refridgerated and they will keep for about week or two, but with declining quality - after a few days the cookies start getting soggy from the moisture in the filling.

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The Duo Dishes said...

These cookies look divine!