The cookie that travelled across the seas

Published: 02nd June 2012 10:10 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th October 2012 11:53 AM   |  A+A-

When you think of Argentina, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably what the country is most famous for—football, tango and beef steak. There is one thing however, that is equally popular amongst the locals and they are very passionate about them. I’m talking about their moon pies: alfajors (al-fa-ho-res).
The typical alfajor is made with two slightly sweet shortbread-like cookies, sandwiched with dulce de leche (thick caramel sauce). There are many variations on this standard like nuts, fruits, and chocolate.
These delicious cookies can trace their origin back to the Moorish occupation of Andalusia, Spain and the great culinary traditions of the Mediterranean basin.
With the Spanish conquest of the Americas, came one of the greatest culinary exchanges in history. The Spaniards brought with them their foods and traditions, and it was just a matter of time before each region the American continent developed their own style of cooking, taking a little from both the native and conquering cultures and a great deal of improvisation to create what we now know as Mexican, Peruvian, Argentinean, Chilean, Nicaraguan, Californian, or Cuban cuisine to name just a few.
With time, each region of the Americas adapted the Spanish alfajor and made it their own. For example, in Argentina and Peru alone, there are over 15 varieties of the same basic cookie. In Nicaragua, the alfajor is made with cornmeal, molasses, and cocoa resembling a brownie or fluffy energy bar.
No matter where you go in Latin America, you will find a local version of an alfajor, and everyone will tell you they have the “original alfajor”. Little do they know the history of this cookie stretches back hundreds of years across continents. Through research, the recipe has been traced to the late 1800’s to what is now Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.
These classic Latin American cookies are filled with dulce de leche and covered with chocolate or just drenched in confectioners’ sugar. They’re fancy enough to serve on their own for dessert, and the leftover filling is plain delicious. They always taste better a day after they are made, when the cookies have softened a little by the caramel sauce.
The author is the writer of  AappleMint, a food, travel and photography blog.
Recipe for Alfajors
For the dulce de leche filling:
● 2 cups milk
● 1/4 cup granulated sugar
● 2 teaspoons brown sugar
● Pinch of salt
● 1 teaspoon baking soda
● 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
● 1 oz/28g unsalted butter
For the cookie dough:
● 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
● 2 oz/56gm butter
● 1/4 cup granulated sugar
● 1 egg
● 1 egg yolk
● 1 tablespoon honey
● 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
● 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
● Few drops of rum (optional)
● Pinch of grated lemon peel (optional)
For garnish: (optional)
● Confectioners’ sugar
● Dark chocolate, melted
● Milk chocolate, melted
Prepare the filling:
Boil the milk with the sugars, salt and baking soda. Let it cook for about one and half hours on a very low flame stirring regularly. Cover the pot with plastic wrap and place pot inside a larger pot with boiling water. Cook for another one and half hours. The mixture should get sticky and become caramelized. Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla extract, stir and allow to cool.
Prepare the cookie dough:
Mix all the ingredients together to make a thick dough. If it is too dry, add some water. Refrigerate the dough for two hours. Remove and let stand to soften. Roll out dough to 1/8 of an inch thick and use a floured 2 to 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter to cut cookie dough into circles.
Preheat oven to 180º C. Bake the cookies for about eight to 10 minutes, until the tops are a very pale golden brown. Cool completely on wire racks. When ready to eat, spread dulce de leche cream between two cookie rounds. If desired, cover with melted chocolate or confectioner's sugar.

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