Alfajores Marplatenses: Move Over, Havanna!

Alfajores Marplatenses [Havanna-style] by katiemetz, on FlickrWe're celebrating Argentina's beloved sandwich cookie, the alfajor! The alfajor takes many forms, with different regions of the country whipping up their own unique versions, from triple-layered affairs oozing with dulce de leche and bathed in chocolate to jam-filled confections glazed with sugar. To spread the love about all things alfajor, my blogging pals and I have joined forces to bake and photograph six different types of these cookies. At the bottom of my post, you'll find links to visit everyone's recipes. Make the rounds on the alfajor tour and decide which one tickles your fancy!

The recipe for the classic alfajor marplatense, two cookies joined with a layer of dulce de leche and coated in semisweet or white chocolate, was created in the 1940s by the owners of a Mar del Plata café known as Havanna. Over the years, as these sweet treats grew in fame, a box of Havanna alfajores turned into an indispensable gift to take home to friends and family following a visit to Mar del Plata, an immensely popular seaside resort in Argentina. Today the company turns out the most well-known – if not necessarily the best-loved – alfajores in all of Argentina.

Havanna in Necochea, Argentina by katiemetz, on Flickr

Coffee and an Alfajor at Havanna, Mar del Plata, Argentina by FotosEli / Elizabeth Lovelace [used with permission of photographer] Havanna Alfajor [alfajor marplatense] by FotosEli / Elizabeth Lovelace [used with permission of photographer]

These days, scores of brands of alfajores marplatenses exist, both artisanal and mass-produced, and Argentines have very strong feelings on the subject of best alfajor. For example, many people from Necochea swear allegiance to Lagrifa, a brand of alfajor marplatense produced right here in my city. The first time I visited Necochea, Daniel's family gifted me a box of assorted alfajores from Lagrifa with its colorful package displaying a beach scene.

Alfajores marplatenses come in several flavor combinations including cookies filled with dulce de membrillo and covered with a light merengue and others stuffed with chocolate cream and bathed in yet more chocolate. And while just two cookies are the norm, some prefer three-layered alfajores known as alfajores triples. However, the classic alfajor marplatense with dulce de leche claims the most faithful followers, and here you have a recipe to recreate these delights in your own kitchen!

Alfajor marplatense by katiemetz, on FlickrHavanna-style Alfajor by katiemetz, on Flickr Chocolate-covered Sandwich Cookies with Dulce de Leche by katiemetz, on Flickr

Alfajores Marplatenses | Chocolate-covered Sandwich Cookies with Dulce de Leche
Adapted from a recipe by La Cocina de Ile

Ingredients

12 Tbsp. [1 1/2 sticks] butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract 
1 1/2 Tbsp. Nutella [chocolate hazelnut spread]
zest of 1 orange
1 egg
1/4 c. milk
3 c. flour
2/3 c. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. baking powder

approx. 1 1/2 c. dulce de leche repostero [this type is thicker and primarily used as a filling for desserts – substitute regular dulce de leche if unavailable]

16 oz. semisweet chocolate or white chocolate [or substitute baño para repostería if available and omit shortening]
1 1/2 Tbsp. vegetable shortening

Directions

In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the vanilla, Nutella, orange zest, egg and milk [mixture will look lumpy], and set aside.

In a separate, large bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch and baking powder.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and add the wet ingredients. Mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon until they come together to form a dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and lightly knead the dough, just until smooth and uniform. Form the dough into a ball, and place it in the refrigerator to rest for at least 5 minutes.

Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1/8 to 3/16 inch [yes, use a ruler]. Keep the dough on the thin side if you want to make triple-decker alfajores. Using a 2 or 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter [or even a drinking glass], cut out circles of dough. Gather and reroll the scraps. Arrange the circles of dough on baking sheets lined with parchment or silicone baking mats, and place in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes, or until dough hardens.

Bake in a preheated 375ºF oven for 5 to 7 minutes. The dough will puff slightly. You want the cookies to be just barely cooked through without browning. If you overbake the cookies, they will be dry and crumbly rather than moist. Remove from the oven and transfer to wire racks to completely cool.

Spread a generous amount of dulce de leche over the flat side of a cookie, and top it with another cookie, flat side down. Add another layer of dulce de leche and one more cookie for triple-decker alfajores.

Naked Alfajor Marplatense

Melt the chocolate and the shortening together in a stainless steel bowl set over barely simmering water, stirring frequently [tips on melting chocolate]. Keep the chocolate warm as you dip the alfajores.

Dip the alfajores one by one into the chocolate, using a fork to turn them over and then lift them out. Allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl before transferring the alfajor to a baking sheet lined with parchment. Allow the chocolate to set at room temperature.

Store the alfajores in a tightly-sealed container overnight, separating the cookies with parchment. This step improves the texture of the alfajores, especially if they spent a touch too long in the oven.

Alfajores Marplatenses | Havanna-style Alfajores by katiemetz, on Flickr

[Photo credit: Images of Havanna alfajor and coffee courtesy of FotosEli/Elizabeth Lovelace, professional photographer in Mar del Plata]

Alfajores salteños by Paula de Caro Alfajores de maizena by Ana Astri-O'Reilly Alfajores Cordobeses by Aledys Ver Alfajores santafesinos by Meag Morrell Alfajores mendocinos by Rebecca Caro

Take the Alfajor Tour!
Alfajores salteños from Paula at Buenos Aires Foodies and Bee My Chef
Alfajores de maizena from Ana at Ana Travels
Alfajores cordobeses from Aledys at From Argentina to the Netherlands, For Love!
Alfajores santafesinos from Meag at A Domestic Disturbance
Alfajores mendocinos from Rebecca at From Argentina With Love

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