So I took these cookies to a Peruvian dinner at a friend's house, at which the host turned out dish after dish of INSANELY good, classic Peruvian dishes -- yuca frita, ceviche, aji de gallina, lomo saltado, arroz con pollo, and more -- every bite even better than the last. I'd offered to bring dessert before I knew quite how incredible the feast would be, so with every knock-it-out-of-the-park dish, I got more and more worried about serving my alfajores at the end. I mean, you never want the host of a dinner party to feel bad that they allowed you to bring something, and you don't want to disappoint all your new friends. Thank goodness, the alfajores were a hit.
We had to leave about 15 minutes after dessert was served, and when one of our new friends asked "Oh no, are you leaving already?", I apologized, and said we really had to. He quickly followed up with "You're not taking THE COOKIES, are you?" I assured him that no, the cookies would remain. He was very relieved.
I found my alfajores recipe the way I always find new recipes for ethnic dishes these days (see also lamb keema, chiles en nogada). I Googled for recipes and asked for suggestions on Twitter, read through about a dozen options, and decided on the one I thought sounded best. In this case, it was from Big World, Small Kitchen, and it was shortbread-like, with cornstarch and a little brandy.
Now, I'm not going to tell you this is an easy dough. This is a dough where temperature matters. If you don't chill where the recipe says chill, and work quickly to cut out the circles and put them on your baking sheet, you will in fact be sorry. Warmed up, the dough gets all mushy and sticky and very hard to work with. You also need a lot of flour on the cutting board to prevent sticking, but the more flour you use on the board, the tougher the cookies will get when you re-roll scraps. So, it's a delicate dance. But... an even more delicate cookie, and thoroughly worth it.
The chilled dough:
An excuse to finally bust out my cool new rubber-bandy-things that help you roll your dough to a consistent thickness -- in this case, 1/8-inch:
Then I got in there with the 2-inch round cutter:
And placed the dough circles on a buttered cookie sheet. (I'd also saved a couple of excess foil-wrapped individual butter pats for no particular purpose, and found they were absolutely perfect for buttering the foil on my cookie sheets.)
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, just until they're lightly golden around the edges, and place on a rack to cool. (With or without a copy of the Financial Times underneath to catch crumbs.)
(Those broken scraps on the bottom left are from a fairly disastrous moment where I dropped a full cookie sheet of just-baked cookies into my sink. It landed cookies-up, thank goodness.)
(Anybody else in the mood for a game of Othello?)
Once they're cool, spread a half-teaspoon or so of dulce de leche in the middle, press another cookie on top, and you have yourself a little sandwich. Or, if you insist on knowing the accurate singular/plural forms of foreign words, un alfajor.
(Pretty much actual size.)
Tomorrow: a little bit more about sandwiching and packing these little gems for transit.