These Alfajores (Peruvian Style) are a classic South American cookie. Silky smooth manjar blanco (dulce de leche) is sandwiched in between two melt-in-your mouth short bread cookies. Roll the edges in powdered sugar in the style of Peru.
Alfajores–if you’re unfamiliar consist of a shortbread cookie sandwich filled with dulce de leche (Peruvians call it manjar blanco) in the center. The cookies are melt-in-your mouth and the dulce de leche is creamy with a hint of cinnamon–so good!
These cookies have some flour, corn starch and powdered sugar (which obviously has corn starch in it). And added egg yolk gives it a nice richness (though, it’s not necessary) and since I was feeling fancy, I used some vanilla paste, which I use incredibly sparingly since it’s so expensive (but has recently gone down in price). If you don’t have it, skip it!
Manjar Blanco or Dulce de Leche?
The biggest difference between Alfajores (Peruvian-Style) and alfajores cookies from other parts of South America is that we don’t call it dulce de leche, we use the term manjar blanco. West of the Andes mountains, the term manjar blanco is used; east of the Andes mountains, the term dulce de leche is used.
In Colombia they use the name “arequipa.”
What Does Alfajores Mean?
While “alfajores” doesn’t have a direct translation many believe that “alfajor” is derived from the Arabic word “al-hasu” which means “filled.” This would make sense considering alfajores are indeed filled!
Where Are They Originally From?
While Alfajores are popular in South America, they are from Spain with origins in Middle East. Story has it that the Moors brought the Alfajor over during its rule over Spain which spanned close to 800 years.
Alfajores Vary From Country to Country in Latin America
I took to IG stories last week to ask about alfajores from different countries in Latin America/South America and this is what I found out! (Honestly this was so interesting to me.):
- Argentina – In Argentina alfajores are typically made with all corn starch and the sides are rolled in shredded coconut.
- Chile – It varies depending on the part of Chile, but some of the cookies are a bit thicker and there are times when nuts and meringue are folded into the mix. Meringue honestly sounds super delicious. Some people dunk the entire cookie in chocolate–yum!
- Bolivia – In Bolivia, the alfajores are a cross between Argentinan alfajores and Peruvian alfajores. They are mixed with all-purpose flour and rolled in coconut.
What Are Alfajores (Peruvian Style) Made Of?
The basic ingredients consist of flour, cornstarch, powdered sugar, salt, butter, vanilla and an egg yolk. They also include the manjor blanco or dulce de leche.
The butter and sugar are beaten together until light and fluffy. And then the flour mixture is added. After those two things are combined, the dough is wrapped in plastic wrap and transferred to the fridge.
I like to roll out the dough to about a 1/4-inch thickness and then stamp out cookies. They make a trip to the oven and then placed on a rack to cool completely before being assembled.
A Short Cut for Dulce de Leche/ Manjar Blanco is A-OK!
This recipe below offers some short cuts. The brand La Lechera sells dulce de leche already in the can. I offer an option of adding a pinch of cinnamon and cloves to these and mixing it in. This is a super quick and easy shortcut and guess what: they’re still amazing.
I also offer a recipe to make the dulce de leche/manjar blanco from scratch. It’s delicious so choose whatever filling best suits your mood and time limits.
When I was in Peru a couple months ago, we went to a few more modern bakeries and they had various sizes, different flavors and it made me super excited to make new twists on this classic.
But first, you gotta start with the basics! So here she is in all her glory: Alfajores (Peruvian Style).
How to Make Alfajores (Peruvian Style)
- Make the manjar blanco. Whichever avenue you choose (there are two options below!), they’ll both be delicious. I really enjoy the method in the oven because it’s super easy.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients. In this recipe, we have all-purpose flour, corn starch, powdered sugar and kosher salt.
- Beat the butter and vanilla extract/paste. I love emulsifying the fat with the extract; it really takes on the flavor.
- Add the egg yolk (optiona). The egg yolks gives a lovely richness to this cookie dough. If you don’t have it, skip it!
- Pour in the dry ingredient mixture and combine.
- Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill. This dough will be SUPER soft so it needs to chill in the fridge.
- Roll out the dough. Flour your rolling pin and surface and stamp out the cookies.
- Bake the cookies! Until super blond. You don’t want them to be lightly golden brown or medium golden brown. To achieve that melt-in-your mouth quality, you need to bake them until set.
- Fill them with the manjar blanco/dulce de leche.
- Roll the sides in powdered sugar.
AND THEN EAT THEM!
If you make these Peruvian Alfajores, let me know on Instagram!
Looking for more recipes? Here are some favorites:
- Conchas (Pan Dulce)
- Arroz con Pollo
- Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars
- Tres Leches Cake
- Pink & Black Cookies
- Gingerbread Crinkle Cookies
- Iced Oatmeal Cookies
Manjar-Blanco Short Cut:
- 1 (14-ounce) can store bought dulce de leche
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch kosher salt
Manjar Blanco Version Two:
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cinnamon stick , (optional)
- Pinch kosher salt
Vanilla Shortbread Cookie:
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup corn starch, sifted
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 teaspons vanilla extract or vanilla paste, (optional)
- 1 large egg yolk, (optional)
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
To Make the Manjar Blanco Short Cut:
- To a medium bowl, add the store-bought dulce de leche, along with the cinnamon and salt. Mix until smooth and completely combined. Set aside.
To Make the Manjar Blanco Short Cut #2:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grab a small baking dish, a piece of foil and another larger baking dish that the smaller baking dish fits in.
- Pour the sweetened condensed milk into the smaller baking dish and cover it with foil. Place the smaller baking dish in the larger baking dish and fill half way with water. We're going to be creating a water bath for the sweetened condensed milk to cook in. Transfer to the oven to bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. You may need to re-fill it at the 45 minute mark since the water can evaporate.
- Remove it from the oven and allow it to stand for about 15 minutes. This will cool it down so it's easier to handle.
- Remove the foil from the baking dish and remove it from the water bath. Discard the cinnamon stick and pour the dulce de leche/manjar blanco into a glass or stainless steel bowl. Whisk it until it's smooth. This happens pretty quickly.
- You can do this the day before if you like. This stays good in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two weeks. To temper the dulce de leche, transfer the container (with it's lid on and all) to a bowl with warm water. This will allow the dulce de leche to become smooth since the cold temperature from the fridge stiffens it quite a bit.
To Make the Cookies:
- To the medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, sifted corn starch, powdered sugar and salt. Set aside.
- To the bowl of a stand-up mixer (you can also use a medium bowl and an electric hand-mixer), add the butter and vanilla paste or extract. Beat until smooth. Next, add the egg yolk and mix just until incorporated.
- Add all of the flour mixture and slowly mix it together (being sure not to go too quickly or else the flour will fly out of the bowl), until combined, about 1 minute.
- Scoop the dough out of the bowl and form it into a ball. Place it in the center of a sheet of plastic wrap and press it into about a 2-inch round. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge to chill for about 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- When it’s done resting, in the fridge, transfer the dough to the center of a sheet of parchment. Place a sheet of parchment on top and roll it out slowly. (If it’s too cold, let it come closer to room temperature, about 10 minutes.) Roll it out until it’s about 1/2 to 1/4-inch thick.
- Using a 3-inch cookie cutter, stamp out cookies, having them as close to each other as possible. Transfer the cookies (I found it easiest to use an offset spatula to pick up the cookies) to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 2-inches apart. Transfer to the fridge to chill for about 10 minutes. Repeat until you work your way through all of the dough. I rerolled the dough about 2 more times.
- Score the tops of the cookies with a tines of a fork. Transfer to the oven to bake for about 11 to 13 minutes, until the cookies are a bit firm to the touch but have zero color on the edges. These cookies are baked just until set. Allow to cool on the baking sheets until room temperature.
To Assemble the Alfajores:
- When the cookies have cooled, flip half of the cookies on their opposite side. Transfer the manjar blanco to a piping bag with a piping tip attached (this part is optional). Pipe a round of manjar blanco on all of the cookies facing their opposite sides.
- Alternatively, you could also spoon the manjar blanco onto each of the cookies and smooth it out (gently because the cookies are delicate) using a butter knife.
- Top each of the cookies with another cookies and lightly press it down. Roll the sides in the sifted powdered sugar. Store in an air-tight container or bag for up to 3 to 5 days.
- The dough needs to be refrigerated for about an hour or up to 3 days. It works much better when the moisture is evenly distributed throughout (what resting in the fridge does).
- You can use store-bought dulce de leche. It might be kinda lumpy straight out of the jar and/or can so be sure to whisk it until it's smooth.
- Different cookie cutters: You can make mini alfajores by using a 1 1/2-inch cookie cutter. For a larger size, use a 3-inch cookie cutter.
- These are best stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
- The manjar blanco/dulce de leche can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept in an airtight container in the fridge.
- To temper manjar blanco, allow to come to room temperature for 2 hours. OR, you can place the container (sealed) in a bowl of warm water to temper.