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Alfajores - a sweet and addicting temptation made in Peru

Peruvian Alfajores

Powdery cookies filled with Manjar Blanco - a sweet temptation made in Peru

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Creamy, sweet Manjar Blanco embedded in two almost powdery cookies, that is a traditional, absolutely delicious and addicting Peruvian Alfajor - one of the most popular sweet sensations in the country.

Alfajores are most probably an adaptation of the Arabic confection "alajú" that for centuries is made in some regions of Spain and came to Latin America with the Spanish conquerors. So throughout Central and South America different versions of Alfajores with numerous fillings can be found.

In Peru the traditional Alfajor consists of two fine, crumbly almost powdery, pale cookies made of flour, cornstarch, butter and powdered sugar that are filled with Manjar Blanco, a sweat, caramel-like, sticky reduction of whole milk and sugar.

Alfajores are a delicious little goodie for in between, perfect on the coffee table, great as special treat on a buffet or a good way to end a Peruvian dinner.

Making Alfajores at home is really super simple though a little time consuming. The key to an exceptional Alfafor is using a good Manjar Blanco for the filling. Contrary to common belief Peruvian Manjar Blanco usually isn’t Dulce de Leche. Most types of Dulce de Leche are a reduction of (sweetened) condensed milk while Manjar Blanco is made by reducing sugared whole milk to a thick and creamy caramel-like paste – the ingredients might be similar, the taste and texture however is quite different.

So, if you prepare Alfajores at home either get ready-made original Peruvian Manjar Blanco which is available in Latin American (online) food stores and even on Amazon or prepare it on your own. While being a slow and long process, it isn’t difficult at all and once the first home-made Alfajor melts in your mouth worth every single minute.

Find below my favorite, really easy recipe for Peruvian Alfajores including instructions on how to make Manjar Blanco.

Photos

For heavenly Peruvian Alfajores good Manjar Blanco is needed which is easy to prepare though time-consuming.
After simmering whole milk with sugar for more or less 30 minutes the mixture starts to change its color and consistancy and we are one step further to soon have a delicious Peruvian Manjar Blanco
Another ten minutes or so later the Peruvian Manjar Blanco is ready
Your home-made Peruvian Manjar Blanco should be creamy and sticky with a golden-brown, caramel-like color
The result of 45 minutes of hard work: delicious, home-made Peruvian Manjar Blanco
The dough for Peruvian Alfajores is really easy and quickly made
After combing the ingredients ....
... the shiny dough is ready ...
... and rolled-out just needs some time to rest in the fridge.
After cutting out the cookies for the Alfajores ...
... and piercing them with a fork ...
... the cookies are baked and ready to be filled.
A generous amount of self-made or ready-made Manjar Blanco is spread on one Alfajor cookie and then sandwich-like topped with another.
Dusted with lots of powdered sugar the Peruvian Alfajores with Manjar Blanco filling are ready to be enjoyed.

Eva's Recipe for traditional Peruvian Alfajores

Food

Ingredients:

Ingredients for the Alfajores
150 g all-purpose flour (1 1/5 cups)
150 g cornstarch (1 1/5 cups)
1 teaspoon baking powder
50 g powdered sugar (2/5 cups)
200 g butter at room temperature (7 ounces)
1 small egg
250 g Manjar Blanco
Powdered sugar for decoration
Ingredients for Manjar Blanco
1 l fresh whole milk - no light, skim or UHT milk! (2 1/8 cups)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
250 g sugar (2 ¼ cups)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

  1. If you don’t use ready-made Manjar Blanco first prepare the creamy, caramel-like paste. Otherwise skip the next 4 steps.
  2. In a wide and high nonstick pot bring the milk to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and start whisking. Carefully add the baking soda. As it will foam heavily, keep stirring to avoid boiling over. As soon as the milk has its normal volume, add the sugar and slowly stir until it is completely dissolved.
  3. Then let simmer on very low heat, only stirring occasionally. The trick is finding a good balance between stirring only as much as the milk doesn't boil over or burn and leaving it simmering for enough time to let the liquid evaporate and the sugar caramelize. For the next 20 minutes nothing seems to happen. Be patient. After about 30 minutes the mixture starts to change the color and get creamier. As soon it's light golden and thickens, it's time to constantly, but very slowly stir to avoid burning.
  4. As soon as the Manjor Blanco has a nice dark golden-brown color and is very thick and sticky (this should be after more or less 40 minutes), it's ready. To determine if it has the right consistency, drag a spoon along the bottom of the pot, you should be able to see it for a few seconds; or take a teaspoon out on a small plate, if it stays the way you placed it, it's exactly right.
  5. Remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla extract and let cool down. Give it an occasional stir until completely cooled.
  6. Once the Manjar Blanco is ready, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and powdered sugar in a bowl. Cut butter in small cubes and add to the dry ingredients. With an electric mixer incorporate the butter. Then add the egg and stir in. Flour your hands and knead to a well-combined and shiny dough. Next roll it out to about 3 mm thick. Best use baking paper or cling film on the bottom and top to avoid sticking. Refrigerate the rolled-out dough with the baking paper for at least 30 minutes.
  7. Remove the top sheet of the baking paper from the dough. With a floured round cookie cutter cut out cookies. Cover a baking tray with baking paper and carefully place the cookies onto it. Pierce twice with a fork. Then bake for 8 – 10 minutes at 170°C (340°F). The cookies shouldn’t brown. Allow to cool.
  8. With all preparation work done, it’s time to make Alfajores. Spread a generous teaspoon of Manjar Blanco on a cookie and then place a second one sandwich-like on top. To avoid a mess with the sticky Manjar Blanco, you can as well fill the Manjar Blanco in a piping bag and pipe a decent amount of it onto the cookie and then top it with another.
  9. Dust the Alfajores with plenty of powdered sugar and enjoy.
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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kearn · 11 days ago
    You really should learn what your talking about....the recipe you posted is for dulce de leche....which is NOT made from condensed milk (blasphemy)
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Jennifer · 18 hours ago
      You are extremely rude and you should be ashamed of the way you speak to people. If you have nothing nice to say then don't say anything at all. There's a right and wrong way of speaking to people. You are disgusting.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Sunflower
      • PeruTelegaph
      · 11 days ago
      Thank you so much for your comment. I’m excited to finally have a Dulce de Leche expert that is willing to share his knowledge and experience with me and our readers. So, what is the difference between Dulce de Leche, Arequipe, Cajeta, Manjar de Leche, the Russian Варёная сгущёнка and Peruvian Manjar Blanco? There must be one, as the consistency, texture and especially the taste is quite different. If it’s not the milk – sorry I compared many recipes from numerous Latin American countries, the US and Russia given to me by family, friends and followers on how they make their Dulce de Leche version and in most condensed milk were used while in Peru the abuelitas solely use fresh milk – what’s the secret? Hoping to hear from you soon, so I can update this article and share correct information with our readers. Greetings Eva
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Kearn · 11 days ago
        Dear Eva,

        Glad to be of service... There is no difference in most of the names you wrote...they are different names for the same thing... If you bothered to read other food articles in the food section you write in...there is an article that can explain it...
        your friends make dulce de leche from condensed milk because they are lazy...its a shortcut, like cooking steak in a microwave (god forbid)
        I am a cook, and i make my living cooking,( amongst other things) dulce de leche....
        Some places make it sweeter, some places cook it for a long time making it more condensed (that is known as dulce de leche pastelero) and that to make it easier to work with on pastries such as alfajores.... That will also make it a much darker brown...
        If youre still confused you are welcome to ask more
      • This commment is unpublished.
        Kearn · 11 days ago
        Dear sunflower, im not the one however i am the one who is from uruguay and i am the one who spent years traveling south america....
        And i am a cook who makes dulce de leche for a living..... The fact that you have lazy friends who make it from condensed milk, does not mean thats how its made....
        Its just a shortcut, like cooking a steak in the microwave....
        Look up the Doña Petrona cookbook (one of the definitive authorities) to learn how it should be made.....
        Also, there is a difference between regular dulce de leche and dulce de leche pastelero, which is cooked longer in order to make it more condensed so it can be used in alfajores and other baked goods,
        Hence making it a much darker color.
        As for the differences you asked about... They are not different recipes, they are different words for dulce de leche... Some places make it sweeter, some less..some cook it longer some less... But it's all pretty much the same...
        Glad i could be of assistance....im here if you have any questions
        • This commment is unpublished.
          Sunflower
          • PeruTelegaph
          · 10 days ago
          Thank you for getting back to me. So, you as professional cook and Dulce de Leche expert are telling me there is no difference between Manjar Blanco, Manjar de Leche, Dulce de Leche, Cajeta, Arequipe, …., these are just different names for the same thing? I’m stunned. I’m in Latin America for the past 20 years and might not be a professional in this field, but looked over many shoulders of the one or other chef, mamita and abuelito/a cooking and baking and tasted lots of Dulce de Leche versions as I just love it. Apart from the regular Dulce de Leche and the pastelero version there are huge differences in appearance, texture and taste in the different Latin American countries, but as well in the US and Russia which can’t be explain by shorter or longer cooking times. The Peruvian Manjar Blanco and the Manjar de Leche from Ecuador which are identical are much creamier and milkier than for example the Mexican cajeta which rather is comparable to a thicker caramel sauce with a touch of milk. And I’m not sure why you mention Doña Petrona; when I remember correctly, she was an Argentine home cooking icon and influenced the Argentine cuisine like no one before and after her. Was she an expert on Peruvian food or Latin American cuisine in general as well? And I just checked her Dulce de Leche recipe and it seems she used a bit more sugar and way less bicarbonato. Interesting. Whatever, probably we should meet one day and make a Dulce de Leche tasting comparing the versions of different countries; that might open new perspectives for both of us and we might find the reason for the differences I see, smell and taste but you deny. Anyway, thank you again for your comment which inspired me to once again get a little bit deeper into the topic and then update my Alfajores article as well as my Dulce de Leche article taking if and where necessary your comment into consideration. Have a nice day Eva