I’ve always made Alfajores de Maicena, or cornstarch alfajores. These are the iconic Argentine sandwich cookie. The cookie itself is delicate, crumbly, sort-of like shortbread, but not. The crumbly, soft texture comes from the odd combination of 1 cup of all-purpose flour and 2 1/2 cups of cornstarch. Yes, you read that right. 2 1/2 CUPS of cornstarch. The cookies are baked until just set, filled with Dulce de Leche, and sprinkled with powdered sugar. These are the ones that my grandmother used to make, and the ones that I teach in my classes. They are a simple and delicious staple.
But those of you who have been to Argentina have most likely had a different kind of alfajor. The Alfajor Marplatense. They are named after Mar del Plata, where they originated. Also a soft cookie, but it is made with cocoa powder in the dough and often covered in chocolate. There are many brands, and are even imported into the U.S. these days. Arguably the most famous is the Havanna brand. There are Havanna stores all over Buenos Aires – kind of like Starbucks here. You can pop in and get your cookie and a cup of coffee to sit and enjoy, or you can buy boxes of 12 to bring home.
I’ve eaten my share of these in my lifetime, but it never occurred to me to try to make them. Until the other day. After watching many videos of really bad Argentine cooking shows, I merged a few recipes and came up with a super tasty cookie! Now mom has instructed me to make these once a month, and says she will no longer buy them online. We’ll see!
They are more complicated than the regular alfajores, but worth the extra effort!
- 200 grams unsalted butter room temperature
- 200 grams sugar
- zest of one orange
- 50 grams honey
- 40 grams malt extract (if you can't find malt extract, double the amount of honey)
- 2 eggs
- 400 grams all-purpose flour
- 5 grams baking soda
- 5 grams baking powder
- pinch salt
- 20 grams cocoa powder
- 100 grams cornstarch
- 1 jar dulce de leche use "repostero" (a thicker dulce de leche) if you can find it
- 115 grams good quality chocolate
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Beat together butter and sugar till creamy.
- Add orange zest and mix to combine. Add honey and malt extract and mix.
- Add eggs one at a time and mix to combine.
- Sift dry ingredients together. Fold carefully into wet ingredients. Form into two flat discs and wrap each one in plastic and refrigerate till cold. (this way you always have one cold as you roll out the other.)
- Heat oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut out circles of dough ½ cm thick (4-5mm), 5cm in diameter. Place on a silpat with space in between as they will spread a bit.
- Bake for 5-7 minutes till just set.
- While the cookies cool, make ganache. Place chopped chocolate in a bowl and pour warm cream over top. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir together until the chocolate is completely melted.
- To assemble, place a tablespoon of dulce de leche on the top of one cookie. Place another cookie top side down on top and press down a little. Smooth edges with an offset spatula or spoon.
- Carefully dip bottom in melted chocolate, place on parchment till set, then place on wire rack with a tray underneath and drizzle chocolate over top. Collect the chocolate from the tray beneath and reuse.