What are Alfajores?
The History of Alfajores
Alfajores boast a deep-rooted history originating from the Moors of North Africa and their gastronomic impact in Spain. The term “alfajor” comes from the Arabic “al-hasú,” which translates to “the stuffing” or “the filled.” Introduced to South America with Spanish colonialism, alfajores rapidly turned into a popular dessert across the continent.
The Argentine Twist
Numerous Latin American nations have embraced and modified alfajores, but Argentina has particularly left a significant imprint on this delightful sweet. In Argentina, alfajores are distinct for their use of “dulce de leche,” a creamy, sweet spread made from milk, sandwiched between two circular biscuits. These confections are frequently enveloped in chocolate or sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar, enhancing their sweetness.
Types of Alfajores
Traditional Argentine Alfajores: Characterized by a layer of dulce de leche nestled between two tender, cakey biscuits, these are typically covered in chocolate or sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Cornstarch Alfajores (Maicena): These are crafted using cornstarch, resulting in a delicate, crumbly texture. Filled with dulce de leche and commonly encrusted with coconut flakes.
Chocolate Alfajores: In this variant, both the biscuits and the filling are infused with chocolate, often further enveloped in a chocolate coating.
Fruit-Infused Alfajores: Some versions substitute or pair dulce de leche with various fruit jams or marmalades, offering a fruity twist.
How to Make Alfajores at Home
Preparing alfajores in your own kitchen can be a delightful endeavor, particularly for those who love sweets. Below is an easy recipe to begin your homemade alfajores journey:
200 grams of plain flour 100 grams of cornflour 1 teaspoon of baking powder A small pinch of salt 150 grams of softened butter 100 grams of granulated sugar 2 egg yolks 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence Dulce de leche (to be used as filling) Shredded coconut (for embellishment) Liquid chocolate (optional, for dipping)
- Oven Preparation: Set your oven to 180°C (350°F) and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Creating the Dough: Mix the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whip the butter and sugar until it’s pale and fluffy. Add egg yolks one by one, blending thoroughly after each. Incorporate the vanilla extract.
- Merging: Slowly combine the dry mixture into the wet mixture until a dough is formed.
- Forming Cookies: On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a thickness of about 5mm. Use a circular cookie cutter to shape the cookies and place them on the lined baking sheet.
- Baking Time: Place the tray in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the cookies start to turn a light golden color at the edges. Cool them on a cooling rack.
- Assembly: Spread a generous layer of dulce de leche on the flat side of a cookie, then sandwich it with another cookie. Roll the sides in desiccated coconut, and optionally, dip half in melted chocolate.
- Ready to Enjoy: Let the chocolate solidify if used, and then savor your handcrafted alfajores!
Alfajores remain a cherished delicacy in Argentina and other regions, capturing the delightful spirit of Latin American baking customs. Whether savored alongside a cup of coffee, as a sweet finale to a meal, or simply as a treat, alfajores offer a truly enjoyable experience.
Where are alfajores from?
Certainly, the origins of alfajores are closely linked with Spanish and Arab gastronomic heritage. This confection’s voyage from the Middle East to Spain, and later to Latin America, presents an intriguing story of cultural interchange and culinary adaptation.
The Arab Influence
In Al Ándalus, the area of medieval Spain governed by Muslims, the alfajor was a decadent dessert crafted from honey, nuts, and spices. The Arab culture was renowned for its advanced confectionery skills, and the alfajor stood as a prominent illustration of this gastronomic proficiency.
Arrival in Latin America
As the Spanish colonized the Americas, the alfajor journeyed across the Atlantic. This confection was rapidly embraced and modified in different areas, evolving into new varieties and tastes. In countries like Venezuela and Peru, the alfajor established new roots, and from these locations, it proliferated across the continent.
The Argentine Adaptation
Although alfajores gained popularity in several South American nations, their growth was particularly notable in Argentina. Argentine alfajores are distinguished by their incorporation of dulce de leche, a creamy milk-based concoction, used as the filling. This variation has gained such prominence that the Argentine interpretation often springs to mind for many when alfajores are mentioned today.
Presently, alfajores are relished in a multitude of versions throughout South America and elsewhere. Ranging from the classic Andalusian alfajor, still produced in Spain, to the dulce de leche-stuffed variations favored in Argentina, this dessert boasts a storied past and a promising future.
No matter their place of consumption, alfajores continue to be a delectable emblem of the gastronomic legacy and inventiveness characteristic of the areas they originate from.
The alfajor in the present
The alfajor has truly established itself as a key element in Argentine culinary tradition, with different regions offering their own distinctive take on this delightful confection. Every variation mirrors the local flavors and ingredients, weaving a diverse and rich flavor mosaic throughout the nation.
Hailing from Córdoba, this unique type is noted for its incorporation of sweet fruit fillings, with quince often chosen as a favorite. The luscious, tart filling complements the tender, mild cookies exquisitely, producing a harmonious blend of tastes.
Originating from Santa Fe, this variety is renowned for its generous application of dulce de leche, nestled between three strata of puff pastry. The addition of icing introduces an added dimension of sweetness, rendering it a preferred choice for avid sweet enthusiasts.
From Tucumán, this particular alfajor is characterized by its crunchy cookies, enclosing a filling of sweet cane honey. The combination of the crisp texture of the cookies with the silky, sweet filling creates a pleasing and enjoyable sensory experience.
In these alfajores, cornstarch is incorporated into the dough, giving them a soft, melt-in-your-mouth quality. Commonly filled with dulce de leche, these treats are widely available across Argentina.
National and International Popularity
The widespread commercial success of alfajores in Argentina has not only boosted their fame domestically but also on a global scale. Brands such as Havanna and Cachafaz are now emblematic of premium alfajores, playing a significant role in promoting this confectionary delight around the world.
In Argentina, alfajores transcend being merely a snack; they embody a cultural symbol, a unifying delicacy that fosters communal bonds and national pride. Whether savored routinely, presented as a gift to loved ones, or cherished as a keepsake by visitors, the alfajor occupies a cherished spot in the affections of many.
Most popular brand of Alfajores
Certainly, Havanna has been instrumental in promoting alfajores not just within Argentina but internationally as well. Established in 1947 in Mar del Plata, Havanna rapidly rose to prominence in the market, gaining acclaim for its superior quality ingredients and traditional manufacturing techniques.
Havanna’s alfajores are renowned for their tender, tasteful biscuits that possess a hint of almond essence. The creamy and luscious dulce de leche in the center is bountiful, harmoniously pairing with the biscuits. An elegant layer of fine white or dark chocolate envelops the alfajor, adding a sumptuous dimension to the confection.
Havanna has transformed into a destination of choice for travelers in Argentina. Their alfajores are in high demand as presents or mementos, enabling visitors to bring a slice of Argentine gastronomic heritage back with them. The renowned Havanna coffeehouses, dispersed across the nation, have also turned into favored places for both residents and tourists to relish an array of delicacies, including their celebrated alfajores.
Throughout the years, Havanna has extended its presence beyond Argentina’s borders. Presently, Havanna alfajores can be discovered in numerous countries globally, solidifying its position as a worldwide representative for this adored Argentine confection.
Havanna’s achievements serve as proof of the lasting allure of the alfajor, transcending cultural and geographical frontiers. The brand’s dedication to excellence and heritage has guaranteed that the alfajor continues to hold a special place within Argentine culture and culinary tradition.
Why are Argentinian alfajores so popular?
Indeed, the variety in tastes and textures offered by Havanna alfajores is a genuine testament to the culinary depth of this quintessential Argentine delicacy. These alfajores have won over numerous admirers, not only in Argentina but globally, becoming an essential element of snack times, festive occasions, and moments of indulgence.