Ah, the heavenly alfajor. I've only made these a few times since coming home from Paraguay, but I should probably make them more often. They can be a little difficult to get just right, not all crispy and not crumbling to pieces. I haven't actually made this particular recipe I'm posting, but the ingredients look about right from other times I've made it. The main thing you need to look for is the corn starch. If you find an alfajor recipe with just flour and little to no corn starch, run away. Fast. The corn starch is what gives it the melt in your mouth consistency. The trick to knowing when they are done is similar to classic sugar cookies...they are done just a minute or two before you think they're done (not brown at all yet).
First, you need to make some dulce de leche. If you can find it already made, feel free to buy it, but I've had a hard time finding it in any stores. I've tried making it the classic way, which involves slowly boiling, stirring, and adding sugar to milk for several hours. The easy way is to take 3 or 4 cans of sweetened condensed milk, and throw them in a pressure cooker for half an hour. You probably only need one can for a batch of alfajores, but as long as you've got the pressure cooker running, throw a few extra cans in there. Take the labels off the cans before boiling them, and don't open the cans before cooking or until they are completely cooled after cooking. The pressure will keep the can from exploding, which can happen if it boils dry in an open pot, besides the fact that it cooks much quicker in the pressure cooker. Throw the extra, unopened cans in the pantry after they cool down and save them for later. It's great on graham crackers, on top of ice cream, to dip fruit in, and the list goes on.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon baking powder
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
non-stick cooking spray
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
To prepare dough: Sift together flour, cornstarch and baking powder; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and lemon zest on medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in whole egg, then egg yolk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. (The mixture will look somewhat curdled.)
Add sifted ingredients all at once. On low speed, beat just until dough comes together. Scrape out sticky dough onto plastic wrap, press into a disk, wrap tightly and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly coat a large cookie sheet with cooking spray, line with parchment, and then lightly spray the paper.
Place chilled dough on a well-floured surface; roll out with a floured rolling pin to an even 1/4-inch thickness or slightly thinner. Using a sharp 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut as many circles as possible, occasionally dipping the cutter in flour to prevent sticking. Arrange the circles 1 inch apart on cookie sheet.
Gather scraps of dough, roll them out, cut more circles, and add to the cookie sheet. If dough becomes overly soft and sticky, chill it briefly until it is workable. Refrigerate the filled cookie sheet for 15 minutes.
Bake the cookies about 10 minutes, until they have just set and are slightly puffed but not at all colored. Let cool for 1 or 2 minutes, then loosen cookies with a spatula.
Pipe or spoon about 1 tablespoon of dulce de leche onto the bottom (flat side) of a cooled cookie. Make a sandwich with another cookie. Press the cookies together gently to spread the filling to the edges. Roll the sticky rim in grated coconut. Repeat with the remaining cookies.
If you don't like coconut, don't roll it in coconut. Roll it in something else: Rice Crispies, crushed Oreos, chopped peanuts, or just leave the edges gooey.