south america, specifically argentenia, has given me many loves; chimichurri, malbec wine, argentinian steak houses, and of course these buttery shortbread cookies called alfajores! alfajores are a type of shortbread cookie frequently found throughout south america, most commonly argentenia. these cookies are unlike any shortbread cookie you may have had stateside, as these are prepared with cornstarch, cooked until lightly brown, and sandwiched together with dulce de leche. the cookie production doesn't stop at the filling as they can be found rolled in coconut flakes, or dipped in melted chocolate and dusted with powdered sugar, these alfajores are found in an assortment of finishing combinations and pair perfectly with a strong coffee.
1 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temp
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon pisco or brandy
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dulce de leche, at room temp
powdered sugar, for dusting
1/2 cup shredded coconut *optional
in a medium bowl, whisk together cornstarch, measured flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. combine and set aside.
place butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. mix on medium speed, stop the mixer to scrap down the sides of the bowl and the paddle attachment using a rubber spatula. continue to mix until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. add the egg yolks, pisco or brandy, and vanilla, mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds. stop the mixture and scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle. on low speed, gradually add the reserved flour mixture and mix until just incorporated with no visible white pockets, about 30 seconds.
turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap, shape dough into a smooth disk, wrap dough tightly in plastic wrap. place dough in the refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour.
when dough is firm, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F, arrange a rack in the middle. line two baking sheets parchment paper and set aside.
remove the dough from the refrigerator, remove plastic wrap. place dough on a lightly floured work surface. lightly flour the top of the dough roll to 1/4-inch thickness (the dough will crack but can be easily patched back together). stamp out 24 rounds using a plain or fluted 2-inch round cutter. re-roll the dough scraps and stamp out more rounds until all of the remaining dough is gone.
place the stamped dough on the prepared baking sheets, 12 per sheet, 1/2 inch apart. bake 1 sheet at a time until the cookies are firm and pale golden on the bottom, about 12 - 14 minutes (the cookies will remain pale on top.) transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
turn half of the cookies over so that the flat side is up, now match cookies to those of a similar size. gently spread 2 tablespoons of dulce de leche to the flat side of the cookie, place matched cookie's flat side towards the filling and gently sandwich the cookies together. *if choosing to roll the edges in coconut flakes, I recommend adding a little more filling and making sure the filling fills to the edges. when all cookies have been sandwiched you may roll the edges in coconut flakes* generously dust each cookie with powdered sugar before serving.