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Alfajores (Cornstarch Cookies With Dulce de Leche)

Alfajores (Cornstarch Cookies With Dulce de Leche) 15.000

Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Jul 2, 2020

You can thank South America for this treat that features tender, buttery cookies sandwiched around a creamy dulce de leche center.

Cut the cookies as big or small as you want, though the yield and amount of dulce de leche will vary.

Make Ahead: The cookie dough disk needs to be refrigerated for at least 3 hours and up to 1 day. Freeze rolled and cut dough for up to 2 months; to do so, freeze cut cookie rounds on a baking sheet, then transfer to a zip-top bag. The assembled sandwiches can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

Where to Buy: Look for canned or jarred dulce de leche such as La Lechera (by Nestle) at well-stocked supermarkets or Latin markets. See below for instructions on making your own.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 15 servings; makes 15 sandwiches

  • 1 cup (120 grams) cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup (106 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more to dust counter
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 10 tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons/140 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • About 1 cup (280 grams) store-bought or homemade dulce de leche (see NOTE)
  • Melted chocolate, for drizzling (optional)
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)
  • Finely grated coconut, for decorating (optional)


In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a hand mixer and a large bowl, beat the butter on medium-high until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the granulated sugar and continue to beat until very fluffy and light in color, an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and the paddle. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the egg yolks, one at a time, combining thoroughly after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, and mix on medium to combine. Scrape down the bowl and paddle again.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the cornstarch mixture. Mix until a soft but not-too-sticky dough just comes together. It doesn't need it to be in one mass, but should form a few large, cohesive pieces. Transfer the dough to a piece of plastic wrap and pat into a thick disk. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.

Position a baking rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.

Lightly flour a clean, dry work surface. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it and whack it a few times with a rolling pin to start flattening it. Roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thick, periodically lifting and rotating the dough to keep it from sticking to the counter. Reflour the counter as necessary. You may also lightly dust the top of the dough if the rolling pin sticks. If the dough breaks in any place, patch it with your fingers. Using a 2 1/2-inch cookie cutter (or other size cutter or glass of your choice), punch out as many cookies as you can. Dip the cutter in flour every so often for a clean cut. Gather the scraps, press them back into a disk and return to the refrigerator to firm up.

Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating from front to back halfway through. The cookies should remain mostly pale with a faint hint of gold around the edges and on the bottom. Let the cookies rest on the sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Roll out the chilled scraps, and repeat the cutting and baking of the cookies. Discard the remaining dough scraps (or bake them off as a cook's treat, as the texture may not be quite as good).

When the cookies are cool, invert half of them on your work surface. Using a piping bag, small disher or spoon, place about 1 tablespoon of dulce de leche onto each upturned cookie. With a tableware knife or offset spatula, spread the dulce de leche almost to the edges. Top with the remaining cookies to form cookie sandwiches, using very gentle pressure — remember, the cookies are delicate — to help nudge the dulce de leche to the edges. Drizzle with melted chocolate, dust with confectioners' sugar or roll in finely grated coconut, if desired.

NOTE: To make dulce de leche in the Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker, remove the lid and label of a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk and cover the top of the can tightly with aluminum foil. Place the can on a steamer rack in the cooker's insert and add enough water to reach halfway up the can. Cook on high pressure for 40 minutes and allow a natural release. Remove the can, uncover and let cool for at least 20 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and a pinch of fine sea salt, if desired.

To make dulce de leche on the stove top, remove the label from a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk. Place on its side in a large pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce to maintain a gentle simmer, cooking for 2 to 3 hours, depending on how dark you want the caramel. Check the water frequently to make sure the can is completely submerged (to prevent the can from exploding) and replenish as needed. Remove the can with tongs, place on a wire rack and let cool before opening. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and a pinch of fine sea salt, if desired.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from Camila Hurst, who blogs at Dulce de leche instructions adapted from Melissa Clark and Serious Eats.

Tested by Becky Krystal.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving: 215

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 10g 15%

Saturated Fat: 6g 30%

Cholesterol: 63mg 21%

Sodium: 67mg 3%

Total Carbohydrates: 29g 10%

Dietary Fiber: 0g 0%

Sugar: 15g

Protein: 3g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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