Alfa who?

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Guess what we’re making?

[note–the pot above is utilized only as the bottom of the jerry-rigged  double boiler and for making dulce de leche where its contents do not interact with the food–I promise I’m not poisoning people with teflon].

It’s been a while since I had fun with dulce de leche.  And, I was thinking about my friend Melissa who moved to Argentina.  Another friend of mine was just there and it got me wondering why haven’t I been?  Why not just hop on a plane?  There are multiple daily flights out of LAX on LANS.  I could be there before sundown tomorrow.

And then reality set in.  There is that thing I spend most of my time doing called work.  And there is that dishwasher that needs to be replaced.  And those Kitchen Gods who are insistent on being fed.  So, I settled on missing Melissa and making alfajores.

As if the dulce de leche filling wasn’t enough to motivate me to give these a whirl, I’ve long been intriugued with the idea of swapping out traditional flour with cornstarch.  I’ve done some experimenting with shortbread recipes, to mixed results.  So, this was an excuse to experiment.

Unlike my shortbread attempts, this was a success.  Just barely sweet, the cookies were tender and crisp.  I managed to coax exactly two dozen little round cookies out of the dough.


Alfajores are often rolled in ground coconut as a finishing touch.  As coincidence would have it, the other recipe I made the day I made these also included coconut as a main ingredient.  Not wanting to over coconut the recipients of my treats, I left off the coconut here.




  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon pisco or brandy
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dulce de leche at room temperature.  For recipes goes here and here
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting


  1. Place the cornstarch, measured flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk briefly to combine; set aside.
  2. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl once with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks, pisco or brandy, and vanilla and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, gradually add the reserved flour mixture and mix until just incorporated with no visible white pockets, about 30 seconds.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape it into a smooth disk, and wrap it tightly. Place in the refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  5. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a lightly floured work surface or, between two sheets of parckment. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Roll to 1/4-inch thickness (the dough will crack but can be easily patched back together). Stamp out 24 rounds using a plain or fluted 2-inch round cutter, rerolling the dough as necessary until all of it is gone.
  6. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, 12 per sheet and at least 1/2 inch apart. Bake 1 sheet at a time until the cookies are firm and pale golden on the bottom, about 12 to 14 minutes. (The cookies will remain pale on top.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Flip half of the cookies upside down and gently spread about 2 teaspoons of the dulce de leche on each. Place a second cookie on top and gently press to create a sandwich. Dust generously with powdered sugar before serving.


One thought on “Alfa who?”

  1. Work is so disruptive to travel and baking plans, is it not? These cookies sound complicated but delicious. Cornstarch shortbread is wonderfully short and crumbly.

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