One of my favorite cookies from childhood are Alfajores. These are a play on that Peruvian classic that I love so much. The finely chopped pistachios in the shortbread cookies give it such nice texture. I used super fancy pistachios that I brought back from Italy. They were reaching their expiration date and I desperately needed to add them to something of value, something that was worthy of their deliciousness—I found it!
As much as I love making the manjar blanco/dulce de leche from scratch, I also love the shortcut too. And the shortcut is amazing. A lot of companies who sell sweetened condensed milk also sell dulce de leche in the can and it makes for an easy breezy cookie-making experience—I recommend it!
- Manjar-Blanco Short Cut:
- 1 (14-ounce) can store-bought dulce de leche
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of ground cloves
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup corn starch, sifted
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 3/4 cup pistachios, removed from their shell and finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla paste
- 1 egg yolk
- To Make the Manjar Blanco short cut: To a medium bowl, add the store-bought dulce de leche, along with the cinnamon, ground cloves and salt. Mix until smooth and completely combined. Set aside.
- To Make the Cookies: To the medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, sifted corn starch, powdered sugar, pistachios and salt. Set aside.
- To the bowl of a stand-up mixer (you can also use a medium bowl and an electric hand-mixer), add the butter and vanilla paste or extract. Beat until smooth. Next, add the egg yolk and mix just until incorporated.
- Add all of the flour mixture and slowly mix it together (being sure not to go too quickly or else the flour will fly out of the bowl), until combined, about 1 minute.
- Scoop the dough out of the bowl and form it into a ball. Place it in the center of a sheet of plastic wrap and press it into about a 2-inch round. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge to chill for about 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- When it’s done resting, in the fridge, transfer the dough to the center of a sheet of parchment. Place a sheet of parchment on top and roll it out slowly. (If it’s too cold, let it come closer to room temperature, about 10 minutes.) Roll it out until it’s about 1/2 to 1/4-inch thick.
- Using a 3-inch cookie cutter, stamp out cookies, having them as close to each other as possible. Transfer the cookies (I found it easiest to use an offset spatula to pick up the cookies) to a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 2-inches apart. Transfer to the fridge to chill for about 10 minutes. Repeat until you work your way through all of the dough. I rerolled the dough about 2 more times.
- Score the tops of the cookies with a tines of a fork. Transfer to the oven to bake for about 12 to 13 minutes, until the cookies are a bit firm to the touch but have zero color on the edges. These cookies are baked just until set. Allow to cool on the baking sheets until room temperature.
- To Assemble the Alfajores: When the cookies have cooled, flip half of the cookies on their opposite side. Transfer the manjar blanco to a piping bag with a piping tip attached (this part is optional). Pipe a round of manjar blanco on all of the cookies facing their opposite sides.
- Alternatively, you could also spoon the manjar blanco onto each of the cookies and smooth it out (gently because the cookies are delicate) using a butter knife.
- Top each of the cookies with another cookies and lightly press it down. Dust the tops with powdered sugar.
- Store in an air-tight container or bag for up to 5 days.
Yield: 24 cookies