These Alfajores (Peruvian-Style) are a classic. Silky smooth manjar blanco (dulce de leche) is sandwiched in between two melt-in-your mouth short bread-like cookies.
Let me just say that I cannot believe I don’t have a recipe for regular Alfajores on this entire blog. It shook me to my core. A long time ago, I posted a recipe for Mini Alfajores but I don’t have just regular size ones.
Also, I am now a very grown woman and am a whole lot better at baking so I think this recipe is definitely superior. I’ve played with the cookie a bit and am very into this ratio. A lot of Alfajores are made just corn starch but I’ve always felt like they were a bit too chaulky for me. So this is a nice in between.
It has some flour, some corn starch and powdered sugar (which obviously has corn starch in it). And added egg yolk gives it a nice richness 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).
Manjar Blanco or Dulce de Leche?
The biggest difference between Alfajores (Peruvian-Style) and Alfajores 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 Alfajores 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.
I find the differences so interesting and so cool. If you have anything to add, PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW!
When I was in Peru, I went to a bakery and was blown away by the alfajores. They melted in your mouth. So good! The one I had was rolled in powdered sugar and the manjar blanco had a subtle cinnamon flavor to it, which is typical.
I remember when my Tia Emilia would visit from Peru and would make the manjar blanco from scratch. She’d add the cinnamon stick and whole cloves and would stir and stir. The entire house would smell so good.
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.
Should Alfajores Be Refrigerated?
Absolutely! 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).
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 manjar blanco from almost 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.
- 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. The egg yolks gives a lovely richness to this cookie dough.
- 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!
Manjar-Blanco Short Cut:
- 1 (14-ounce) can store bought dulce de leche
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch ground cloves
- Pinch kosher salt
Manjar Blanco Short Cut Option #2
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch cloves
- 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
- 1 large egg yolk
- 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, ground cloves and salt. Mix until smooth and completely combined. Set aside.
To Make the Manjar Blanco Short Cut #2:
- In a large pot, fill with water to cover the can of sweetened condensed milk. Over high heat, bring to a boil. Let simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, making sure to add more water as necessary. Carefully remove the can of pot and allow to come to room temperature before opening.
- Open the can and pour into a bowl. Mix in the cinnamon, cloves and salt.
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 12 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.
Looking for more Latin-Inspired Recipes? Here are some favorites: