While living is Israel, we met a woman named Yehudit at the Friday morning Dizengoff Center food market who was selling strange cookies called alfajores. She offered us each a free sample, and we bought two dozen on the spot. Some of them made it home; in about two days, they were completely gone. Afterwards, we bought another two dozen cookies each time we could get to the market.
Yehudit told us that the alfajores were a Jewish cookie that spread around the world during the diaspora. They traveled from the Middle East to Spain to South America. Yehudit immigrated from Argentina to Israel, bringing the cookie back home.
After an accidental fire in the Dizengoff Center mall, the food market was shut down while the tower’s lower floors were rennovated. When the Palestinian Intifada intensified in 2000 and scared people away from the public places, few of the food venders returned and Yehudit no longer brought her cookies to the market for sale. We were heart-broken, and searched the country. A few others made similar cookies, but they were never as good as the ones we found first.
After more than a year of looking, I made an Internet search and found a number of recipes for alfajores. I took a little from this recipe, a little from that one, experimented, and produced a cookie that is truly quite good. It’s not Yehudit’s recipe, but I think it’s just as delicious. Here is my version. Enjoy!
Senor Brent’s Alfajores
Makes 2 dozen sandwich cookies
2 large egg
375 grams butter 1/2 cups)
2 cups corn starch
2 1/2 cup flour
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
grated rind of one lemon
Mix. Roll out to 3/16th inch thickness. Cut out to 2-inch diameter rounds.
Bake at 150 C 00 F) for 9 minutes. The edges of the cookies should be browning while the centers will remain a nice golden color.
Cool on rack.
Filling (dulce de leche):
1 can 00 grams or 16 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
Warning: Anyone with half a brain will tell you that following these next instructions is probably not the smartest thing you could do. For example, ask any engineer or chemistry student to explain Boyle’s Law (amazing coincidence, that name) and what happens to pressure when temperature is increased while volume is held constant (Did someone say boom?). However… my Uruguayan aircraft stress engineer friend uses this same technique in a pressure cooker, producing even higher temperatures, and has done so for years with no mishaps. Even the Russians do this. And if the Russians can, well. Anyway. I put a lid on the pot and sat on the other side of the room just to be safe. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Put unopened can of sweetened condensed milk on its side in a pot of water large enough that the water covers the can by at least half an inch. Boil for 3 to 6 hours, checking the water level every half hour and rotating the can with each check. The longer the can boils, the darker and thicker the filling gets. Four and a half hours is perfect, producing a beautiful brown filling that tastes just like caramel.
Cool the can to luke-warm before opening.
Ground unsweetened coconut (not the grated sugary stuff sold in American supermarkets)
Put a generous dab of the filling on one cookie and lay a second over it to form a sandwich. Rotate the top cookie to spread the filling; too much pressure will cause the cookie to break. The filling should be about 1/8th inch thick.
When all the cookies are filled, roll them in finely-ground unsweetened coconut. Make sure the edge of the filling is coated. The rest of the cookie will only take a small amount of the coconut. Place in an airtight container.
Serve with a glass of milk.
Brent and Lorelle
Tel Aviv, Isarel