With origins in Spain, these milk caramel-filled sandwich cookies are favorites in many South American countries, most notably Argentina. Sweet and buttery, the goal is to achieve a perfect balance of crumble and bite. In Argentina, alfajores are signature items for pastry shops and come dolloped with a variety of fillings. Even completely encased in chocolate. For entertaining pizazz, the sweet gems can be wrapped in different color decorative foils, a la Argentina (insert sexy accent).
½ cup butter, European, unsalted, softened
¼ cup confectioner’s sugar , plus more for garnish
2 egg yolks
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more if needed (1 to 2 Tbs)
1 tsp baking powder
1 can sweetened-condensed milk (14 oz)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (found at specialty grocers, Williams-Sonoma or Amazon)
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
½ cup sweetened flaked coconut, ground or chopped fine
Make dulce de leche
Preheat oven to 375° F. Pour sweetened-condensed milk into a shallow, oven-safe dish and cover with foil. Rest inside a larger roasting pan, and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up the side.
Bake until milk turns a deep brown caramel color, a couple of hours, stirring occasionally and maintaining water level. Remove from oven and add cinnamon and vanilla bean paste. If lumpy, purée in a food processor or blend. Store chilled.
Mix + shape alfajores dough
Sift flour, baking powder and salt (always prep dry ingredients first!) With a hand-held or stand mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth. Blend in egg yolks, vanilla, and lemon zest.
Beat in half of the dry ingredients on low speed. Mix in the remaining half by hand or with a wooden spoon, using additional flour as needed to achieve a moist but coherent dough.
Gently shape into a five-inch disk, wrap in plastic and rest in refrigerator for at least two hours, up to two days.
Bake + Build
Preheat oven to 325° F. On a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough to a quarter of an inch thickness. Cut into 1-inch rounds (or size of your choosing). Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until cookies set, but before browning occurs.
Spread dulce de leche on the bottom of one cookie, dip in coconut (if using), and top with another cookie. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar right before serving.
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