Latin American food seems to be all the rage these days - and I'm seeing alfajores - buttery sugar cookies stuffed with soft caramel - popping up everywhere. They're my new favourite thing; an alfajor or alajú is a traditional sweet found in some regions of Spain and Latin America; in North America, the term alfajores most often refers to shortbread or sugar cookies sandwiched with dulce de leche, a soft milk caramel that’s perfect for spreading on just about anything, but especially cookies.
Fortunately, they're easy to make at home. Dulce de leche is available in some grocery stores and most Latin markets - or try soft maple spread, or to make your own soft caramel. Another delicious (albeit non-traditional) alternative? A jar of Nutella.
1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
dulce de leche or homemade caramel, for filling
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar for 3-4 minutes, until pale and light. Beat in the vanilla.
Add the flour and salt and beat just until the dough comes together; gather it into a ball, divide it in half, shape each piece into a disk and wrap in plastic or waxed paper. Refrigerate for half an hour or so.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough out 1/4-inch thick and cut into 1-1 1/2 inch rounds with a cookie cutter. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and prick each once or twice with a fork.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Once completely cooled, spread half the cookies with dulce de leche or caramel and top with a second cookie.
Makes about 2 dozen sandwich cookies.