Sunday, March 17, 2013

WTF an alfajores?

It's a cookie. Post done.

Okay, maybe a little more information is needed. If you troll through the internet, you will find all sorts of information on this delectable morsel. The explanations range from small tubes of confection to filled cookies. Much like looking up any other national cookie such as shortbread or those maple leaf shaped cookies, it is fair to say that Argentina has claimed the alfajores as its own. Sure, others have made them but it is just not the same.

An aside... I was trying to find  national cookies and started searching using Scotland's National Cookie and ended up with all the government websites informing me that they used cookies on their websites. So, goes to prove just how much of a sweet tooth those Scots have, they even have cookies with their internets.

The Argentinian version is two soft shortbread like cookies with dulce de leche in the middle and either covered in white chocolate or dark chocolate or rolled in coconut. The cookies are crumbly with a soft texture that is achieved using cornstarch or using a recipe that gives you that sandy soft texture. Of course, jam or cajeta can be used, but the caramel of dulce de leche is probably the most popular.

Both cajeta and dulce de leche are versions of caramel made with milk products. I make dulce de leche using the condensed milk in a dutch oven with water method. Just watch the water levels.

What made me write this post is the happenstance of seeing this cookie at one of my many local cafes, Cake Town Cafe. The version of alfajores that I got really impressed me. The cookie was crumbly with an aftertaste of orange zest or maybe orange flower that perfumed the slightly runny, soft dulce de leche. The cookie was so soft that it felt as if the sweet, caramelly center of the cookie was holding the cookie crust together with the sweetened coconut on the outside edge. This is one of those cookies that you wouldn't change. Any change would render it a totally different creature. Think of flavoured shortbread versus straight up shortbread.

My wife, who does love a good cookie or two, only wished that there was more caramel. I would have used unsweetened coconut but neither of us would turn down another cookie. Our quibbles are equal to the tribal fighting of whether my grandmother would make a better shortbread versus her mother's shortbread recipe. Nonsensical arguments that could lead to the breakup of a small country or the creation of generational rifts never to be knitted back together. Needless to say, this is one of those national edible treasures that you must try or buy or get an Argentinian friend to make.

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