Caramel Week: Chocolate Alfajores

Chocolate Alfajores for Caramel Week - Inside NanaBread's Head

Definition: Alfajores (Al-fa-ho-res) are a South American type of shortbread sandwich cookie that are filled with dulce de leche (caramel filling). These delicious cookies can trace their origin back to the Moorish occupation of Andalusia, Spain and the great culinary traditions of the Mediterranean Basin.

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To celebrate Caramel Week, I tried a new twist on a traditional favorite – a chocolate version filled with homemade salted vanilla bean caramel, both in the traditional scalloped round shape and a less traditional square.

Chocolate Alfajores Close-Up - Inside NanaBread's Head

Chocolate Alfajores: The Cookie Dough (makes 3-4 dozen)

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or 2 tsp. vanilla extract)
Dulce de leche caramel (recipe below or store-bought)
powdered sugar & cocoa for dusting

Cream the butter & sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and egg yolks one at a time, mixing after each addition, then beat in vanilla bean paste or extract until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and cocoa; sift to remove all lumps. Turning the mixer to low speed, gradually add the flour and beat until it just starts to come together; turn the mixer to medium and beat 10-15 seconds. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead the dough into a smooth ball; pat into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour or until firm.

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Line several baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats and set aside. Lightly flour your work surface and roll the dough to 1/4″ thick, making sure the dough doesn’t stick to the counter or board. Using a 2″ cookie cutter (round & fluted is traditional), cut out the cookies and carefully transfer them to the baking sheets, about 1″ apart.

Place the cookie sheets into the freezer and allow the dough to chill for 15-20 minutes, or until very firm. Once firm, pop them into the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tops are firm to the touch. Cool on the baking sheet for 10-15 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

You can save time by buying a jar of dulce de leche caramel (Trader Joe’s has a great one) but if you want to tackle it from scratch, here’s mine.

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel: (makes approximately 2 1/2 cups)

2 cans ( ozs. each) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 to 2 cups heavy whipping cream, as needed
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

In a large heavy bottom saucepan, heat the sweetened condensed milk until it comes to a boil, stirring often. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking constantly, until it turns a golden tan color. If the mixture starts to thicken, add heavy cream 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly. Continue to cook until the caramel turns a light brown shade, adding cream to thin it out some as needed. The finished caramel should coat a spoon thickly, but still pour from the spoon easily. When it reaches that stage, remove it from the heat and add whisk in the vanilla bean paste and sea salt. Allow the caramel to cool completely before using.

To Assemble the Alfajores:

Lay the cooled cookies out in rows so you can work quickly. I like to place one row ‘bottoms up’ and the next ‘face up’ so I can keep my pairs matched. Scrape the caramel mixture into a piping bag with a star tip and twist it until the caramel is compressed into the bottom of the bag. Pipe a generous layer of caramel onto the bottom side of half of the cookies. Using the remaining cookies, put a lid on each alfajor and gently press to make sure it’s seated. Once all cookies are filled, dust them lightly with powdered sugar or, as I did, a combination of powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Then try not to eat them all at once.

Chocolate Alfajores by Inside NanaBread's Head

If alfajores have piqued your interest, please drop by my friend Kirsten’s blog at Comfortably Domestic. She baked up a batch using her favorite shortbread recipe and a deep, dark caramel that will make your mouth water. Pinky swear.

Recipe Source: The caramel shown is my own recipe. The alfajor cookie dough was adapted slightly from Vianney Rodriguez at Sweetlifebake.com, who used the recipe from The Cookiepedia cookbook by Stacy Adimando. If you’d like to see Vianney’s traditional vanilla alfajor dough, CLICK HERE.

Chocolate Alfajores with Salted Vanilla Bean Caramel - Inside NanaBread's Head

For more Caramel Week goodies, visit our other Theme Weavers:

MONDAY:
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – Crock Pot Dulce de Leche Caramel

Madelyn at La Petite Pancake – Caramel Banana Bread Pudding

Rebeka at Kvetchin Kitchen – Caramel Apple Pie

TUESDAY:
Allison at Decadent Philistines – Salted Caramel Pork Loin with Shaved Brussel Sprout & Apple Salad

Carrie at Bakeaholic Mama – Chewy Milk Dud Brownies

WEDNESDAY:
Jeanne at Inside NanaBread’s Head – Chocolate Alfajor Cookies (that’s me!)

Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – Vanilla Alfajor Cookies

Haley at The Girly Girl Cooks – Almost Famous Fairground Caramel Sauce

Lauren at Climbing Grier Mountain – Dulce de Leche Milkshakes

THURSDAY:
Kat at Tenaciously Yours – Caramel Popcorn Crunch Sundae

Beka at Kvetchin’ Kitchen – Red Wine Caramel Sauce

Christina at Buffy and George – Butterscotch Pudding

FRIDAY:
Megan at Country Cleaver – Pear & Caramel Mini-Cheesecakes

Madeline at Munching in the Mitten – Caramel Cake

SATURDAY:
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic – DIY Dulce de Leche Caramel Coffee Creamer

Katie at The Hill Country Cook – Salted Caramel Pie

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20 Comments

Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Food & Recipes

20 responses to “Caramel Week: Chocolate Alfajores

  1. Pingback: Caramel Week continues with Alfajores: Caramel Shortbread Sandwich Cookies | Comfortably Domestic

  2. My word, Jeanne—what a sensational cookie! Moreover, I’m thrilled to learn about the alfajor dough and its history. Your chocolate version all dusted up in cocoa and powdered sugar must be one blissful bite after another. Brava my friend!

    • Thanks, Brooks! This was my first attempt at alfajores. I’d never heard of them until I saw a photo on Pinterest that captured my attention. I’m a sucker for shortbread cookies, so finding them piped full of dulce de leche caramel was almost more than I could stand. And yes…. they are delicious!

  3. I want all the cookies. Gimmmee, you can’t stop me!

  4. I’m totally loving the fact that not only did we make similar cookies, but we introduced the post with the same historical information. Sisters from Another Mister, Baby!

  5. Chocolate and caramel! One of my favorite combinations!

    • Right? It’s up there with all the great food pairings – peanut butter & jelly, cake & ice cream, grilled cheese & tomato soup… I could go on and on.

  6. Can I get a round of high-fives, please? Dang woman! These cookies are so stinking perfect. Gorgeous. I’ll take 57 please. K. thanks.

    • Oh, Lauren… do you have any idea how long it would take to make 57 of these at 2 cookies/per? I’ll make you a deal – 57 of alfajores for a dozen of your Dulce de Leche milkshakes made in person. Deal?

  7. Kat

    It’s probably sort of embarrassing for me to admit the amount of fun I have had saying “Alfajores” in the past week. I think it may be one of My New Favorite Words.

    The idea of making these is mildly terrifying to me, but the prospect of eating them by far outweighs this.

    Happy #CaramelWeek!

    • It IS fun to say, Kat. I’ve been enjoying it this past few weeks as well. It sounds even better when you imagine Antonio Banderas saying it. These aren’t as difficult to make as they may look. PLUS – you get a chance to squirt caramel into your mouth from a piping bag. So there’s that. :D

  8. I’ve always been intrigued by alfajores but never tried making them. Now you’ve added chocolate and caramel into the mix and you’ve made them irresistible! Yum!

  9. hillcountrycook

    HOLY MOLY!!!! ON THE LIST TO MAKE!!!!! My mama would LOVE these!

  10. Oh Jeanne…..your photos are so beautiful and inviting! I’ve heard of alfajores before, but have never had them. I definitely want to try your version! A perfect choice for caramel week! : )

    • Thank you, Anne! I think the next time I make them, I’ll cut back on the cornstarch. It’s a traditional ingredient, but I think in this case less is better. Also, I think I’d roll them out a little thinner. The cookies were on the soft side, but I think I’d prefer them a little crispier. I do love the chocolate & caramel combo. So good!

  11. zara

    Caramel is my absolute weakness and these look amazing!

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