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Alfajores de Maizena (Sandwich Cookies filled with Dulce de Leche)
Total 1 hour and 40 minutes (includes chilling and cooling times)
Active 60 mins
Makes about 55 cookies
Mirta learned how to make these delicate melt-in-your-mouth sandwich cookies from her mom, and over the years she has probably made thousands. One of the most popular cookies in Argentina, they’re found in all sizes at the bakeries and are picked up by the dozens for special occasions and celebrations year-round. When she was a child, she and her cousins would play a game where they would compete to see who could eat the most.
TIP: Mirta likes repostero dulce de leche which is thicker and meant for baking. San Ignacio and La Serenisima brands are her favorites. These cookies are very delicate, so if the dulce de leche is too hard, soften it a bit in the microwave. If some of the cookies are noticeably thicker or thinner, Mirta will bake them on separate sheets. Mirta prefers to keep her cookies in the fridge (it doesn’t take long for them to warm up as you plate them), but they can also be kept at room temperature.
Special Equipment
a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, pastry bag, and 1/2-inch round pastry tip
Special Equipment
a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, pastry bag, and 1/2-inch round pastry tip
Ingredients
    • 190 grams (about 6.375 ounces) (about 1 1/2) cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
    • 280 grams (about 10.5 ounces) (about 2 1/4 cups) cornstarch
    • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 15 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 150 grams (5.25 ounces) (about 3/4 cup) sugar
    • 2 tablespoons brandy, cognac, or milk (Mirta’s first preference is brandy)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest (from about 1 small lemon)
    • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
    • 2 cups “repostero” dulce de leche, at room temperature (see Cook’s Note)
    • 1 cup finely grated unsweetened coconut
Directions
  1. Stir together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar, brandy, vanilla, and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium (4 or 5) speed just until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the yolks all at once and mix to combine. Starting on low speed, add the dry ingredients and then increase to medium and beat until just combined. The dough will be soft, buttery, creamy, and silky, like Play-Doh, and hold an indent. Flatten the dough and put into a plastic zip-top bag or wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. (If you want to bake a half portion, divide the dough in half and freeze.)
  3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. Arrange racks on the bottom and middle of the oven and preheat to 350˚F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Break the dough into quarters. Use your knuckles to flatten and press the dough to expand it, then roll it out on an unfloured surface to 1/4-inch thick. Pay attention to the middle so it isn’t thicker than the edges. (If your rolling pin sticks to the dough, lightly press your rolling pin in a bit of flour off to the side as needed. Do not sprinkle flour on top of the dough. If the rolling pin doesn’t stick, don’t use flour.) Put the side of your hand against the edges and gently press in while pressing on top with the other hand to make smooth edges. Then pass the rolling pin over once more to smooth out.
  5. Starting around the outside and working inwards, use a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter to cut the dough, keeping the rounds close to each other and twisting the cutter as you pull up. If the cutter sticks, try gently pushing the cookie out before resorting to flouring the cutter.
  6. Spread a little flour on the counter near one edge of the dough and use a large offset spatula to scrape through the flour to lift up the cookies, a few at a time. Then transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1/2-inch apart (they don’t spread). Reroll the scraps with another quarter of the dough and repeat the rolling and cutting, keeping as much as the bench flour out of the scraps as you can. Repeat with the remaining 2 quarters of dough. Arrange the cookies evenly between the baking sheets.
  7. Bake until the cookies no longer look raw, feel dry, leave just the faintest of a finger indent, and are a little puffy and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. They should not be browned. Let cool on the sheets for 5 minutes (or they will break). With palms up, run your hands gently underneath the parchment to loosen the cookies before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. When putting the cookies on the rack, place one row of cookies face up and one row face down; this will help when filling them. Flip the parchment over on one of the baking sheets and reserve for later.
  8. When the cookies are cool, fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip with the dulce de leche (or fill a plastic bag and snip off a corner). Gently hold each cookie bottom in place on the wire rack, then pipe about 1 teaspoon of the dulce de leche on each. Then gently place the cookie top on the filling without pressing too hard.
  9. Put the coconut in a shallow dish. Pipe a log of dulce de leche on the reserved parchment. Use your finger to brush the edges of each sandwich with the dulce de leche. Then roll the sides of the cookies in the coconut, completely covering all the dulce de leche (or it will stain the other cookies. Your hands need to be clean of dulce de leche as well).
  10. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.