It was my inherent love for sandwich cookies that got me really excited about making this. As a kid, I’d always be presented with a shiny purple pack of Pure Magic Vanilla to behave myself when dadi and I went to the market together. Mum, who has always frowned upon packeted confections would ration how many biscuits I had access to, but I’ve somehow been able to find, and rather inconspicuously, go through an entire double pack of jim jam biscuits in one sitting. “Want something sweet? Eat an apple” was the standard response I was met with, which seemed rather monstrous then, and makes a lot more sense now. Today, several trays and pans later, I find myself opening fewer biscuit packets. Sure there’s still the odd ParleG and Marie biscuits in long glass jars for teatime, but I’m more conscious about what comes home, and what ought to be made fresh. These alfajores could not come to us at a better time. With Raksha Bandhan only a week away, we needed the perfect eggless gift idea, and mum and I were united on our no-cupcake, no-macaron front. We wanted it to be something novel and edgy, sure, but it had to be something we’d be lauded for, as is the case with festive gifting.
These Argentinian alfajores are like melt-in-your-mouth, buttery shortbread cookies, but with cornflour in them. They’re delicate and break easy, but that shouldn’t stop you from gifting them. If they firm up a lot from over baking, they’re not going to be a lot of fun to sandwich and eat. A good cookie should just have a thin ring of brown around the edges. That’s when you take them out and cool them. They are then sandwiched with that most luxurious of spreads- dulce de leche. You’ll want to whip up a batch of this before you start on the cookies, so it has time to cool. They’re supremely easy to make, and if you’re armed with a silpat and a cookie cutter, you’ll have a batch ready to sandwich in no time at all. We packed our cookies separately and just plonked a little jar of the dulce de leche on the side with a popsicle stick.
Yield 12 cookies or 6 sandwiches
These easy-to-make cookies are delicate and crumbly with a whiff of lemon zest and vanilla. When sandwiched with the dulce de leche, they make for fantastic cookie sandwiches.
Salted Butter 100g
Maida or All-purpose flour 75g
Lemon zest 1/4 tsp
Vanilla essence 1/2 tsp
Condensed milk 1 tin
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees celsius. Cream together the butter, sugar, lemon zest and the vanilla until pale and fluffy. If the butter is too soft, just a few whisks will suffice.
Sieve together the cornflour and the maida and add it to the creamed butter mixture. Mix only until the dough starts leaving the sides and comes together as a ball. You can use either a stand mixer or a wooden spoon to do this.
Wrap it in clingfilm and let it sit in the refrigerator for an hour at least. The resting time can be anything over an hour. After the dough has rested, roll it out between two sheets of cling film as you would for a tart base. It should be 1/2 cm-thick and use a cookie cutter to cut out the cookies. This will make approximately 12 cookies or more depending on the size of the cookie cutter you’re using. Chill the cookies in the refrigerator again for 30 minutes or in the freezer for 15 minutes. The chilling also helps you safely transfer the cookies to the silpat or prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on your oven. You want to remove them when they start browning on the edges. We’re looking for white cookie tops. Let it cool in the tin for five minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
To make the filling, in a pressure cooker keep the tin of condensed milk lying on its side and immersed completely in water. Let the pressure build in the cooker. When you begin to hear sounds from the whistle, that is, turn the heat down to low. We don’t want the pressure to completely collect in the cooker. Let it sit on the hob undisturbed for 45 minutes. Then, unlatch the cooker and wait for it to open. Gingerly fish out the tin and open immediately. The thick milk jam inside will have to be whipped until smooth and caramel-like but still thick. Let it cool, then when you want to eat it, spoon a tablespoonful of the dulce de leche onto a cookie and sandwich it with another.
For a more blond dulce de leche, reduce the final pressure cooker time in the recipe from 45 minutes to 35 minutes. This would be a touch sweeter than the original Alfajore filling I provided with the recipe, and is great when making a miso dulce de leche sauce.
Mix together 1/2 cup tahini, 1/4 cup dulce de leche and 1/4 cup coconut milk as an alternate filling for these shortbread biscuits. These make a sensational sesame toffee filling for the cookie sandwiches.