Pre-vegan days, these were a stable in my repertoire. Perhaps other countries will claim it as their own, but believe them not. These are as Peruvian as they come.
Peruvian style alfajores
Well, let's be honest. Alfajores are actually of Arabic origin and found themselves in South America via Spain. You will find different versions with different fillings and coatings, but the ones I make here are the typical Peruvian version.
Perhaps you know the filling as dulce de leche or cajeta. We call it manjar blanco, closest translation is "white delicacy." Typically made out of a milk reduction infused with cinnamon and vanilla with sugar, it has been difficult coming up with a dairy-free alternative that could be used as a filling.
Some of the vegan versions out there treat it more like a sauce. This is really more of a filling that binds and holds its delicious shape.
I had learned to make Alfajores from Teresa Ocampo, the Julia Child of Peruvian cuisine. She used to have a cooking show that I would watch as a child, and later purchasing her cookbook. Her alfajores recipe was heaven. I am not sure what happened to that cookbook, but what I do know is that I had her recipe scribbled on a napkin, which later I doctored up a little bit, and gave to some of my friends. Gail Hiley did a beautiful write up on her Pink Peppercorn blog. So, if you don't care for the vegan version, the original is on her site.
Alfajores are adorable, cute little sandwich cookies with an almost melt in your mouth shortbread pastry and sweet creamy center. The vegan version was a little challenging at first, not for the pastry, but for the center. Now this new version is much quicker and won't burn.
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 cup of cornstarch
- 6 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 and 3/4 sticks of vegan butter (I use Earthly Balance) chilled in the freezer
- Pinch of salt
Place the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse until they are all combined. Dot the chilled butter on top.
Adding the butter in the dry mixture
Pulse until a coarse cornmeal type consistency is reached. Careful not to melt the butter.
Coarse cornmeal mixture, with a light snow color, should still feel cold to the touch
Place in a larger bowl and knead gently until the mixture comes together.
Alfajor pastry dough
Chill one half while you work with the other. On a floured surface, roll a thin sheet. Try not too roll too much, so use more pressure than usual. I sometimes use some plastic wrap on top to help the dough not stick to the rolling pin.
Rolling the alfajores
Using a round 1 1/2 inch cookie cutter, form little circles. If you have rolled it correctly, the dough will stick to the cookie cutter and you can transfer it nicely to a silpat mat on a cookie sheet.
Cutting the alfajores
Fill a whole cookie sheet. Do not be afraid of putting these close to each other as they will not grow or expand.
A sheet of alfajores ready to be baked
Put the finished cookie sheet in the refrigerator to cool and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. When the oven is ready, you can bake them for about 15-18 minutes until just barely golden. They should primarily look white with just a little hint of gold on the edges. Not more.
Cool completely prior to filling.
Vegan Manjar Blanco:
- 1 1/2 cup cashew butter
- 3/4 cup rice brown syrup
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 4 tablespoons soy protein powder, soy milk powder or coconut milk (optional)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix all the ingredients in a pot.
All the manjar blanco ingredients in a pot
Combine them a cook at medium heat until it pulls apart form the sides. Take of from the heat immediately, and let cool slightly prior to filling the alfajores to avoid burning yourself.
Finished vegan manjar blanco
Remember this will thicken as it cools, so it is easier to fill while warm. Sandwich all the cookies, carefully pushing them together so they do not break. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. This recipe makes a crap load of cookies, considering how small they are.
I couldn't help myself. What started as one cookie, turned into a few, well a lot more.
Truly gorgeous little guys.
Peruvian style alfajores