The idea of inspiration can sometimes seem elusive, cliche, at best, especially with "inspo" posts taking over social media left and right. But the more I become immersed in the pursuit of creativity by surrounding myself with the right crowd, or in some cases with the right newsletters in my inbox (thank you Saveur Magazine!), the more I'm able to take on projects I would have otherwise ignored from fear of failure and lack of motivation--like this Argentinian alfajor, also known as alfajor Marplatense, alfajor Mar del Plata style, or alfajores that are jaw-droppingly scrumptious like Havanna (a major producer of gourmet alfajores).
Most of you know how fanatical I become over the subject of Argentina's food and drink culture. I may even have been a pure Argentinian native with Asian skin on in one lifetime or another. Yerba Mate dominates my veins--along with water, coffee, and, more coffee; alfajores, whether they're the maizena variety or these beauties covered in glistening chocolate, make a constant apparition in our home. According to Selah, my almost-to-be-five-year old daughter, she loves to eat "the Argentinas" (aka alfajores).
Now, most people aren't fully acquainted with the wonder of alfajor. I've been surprised time and again that they're not as widely known as I thought, even in the foodie capital that is LA. They're basically very soft, crumbly, and perfectly sweet cookies that sandwich a hefty dollop of dulce de leche. This variety, which is commonly covered in dark, milk, or white chocolate, is perhaps the "newer" kind since it differs from its counterparts of other South American alfajores--typically dusted in powdered sugar as in this recipe I shared a while back. Alfajores Marplatenses are, without a doubt, the most popular treat in Buenos Aires. Whether I J-walked right across to the kiosko in front of my house, or whether I visited the local neighborhood almacen (like a deli shop), I was always able to get my fix on in a heartbeat.
I worked hard to perfect this recipe after taking a good look at my favorite brand's ingredients. As per usual like with most copycat recipes, to an alfajor connoisseur this may not be the uttermost perfect copycat there is, but it tastes amazing in its own right and comes very close to Havanna's delectable products. It also keeps fresh for weeks when sealed in a tight-lid container. I do recommend using chocolate of the highest quality, however, like my new favorite Valrhona bars from Whole Foods.
Any chocolate is completely fine to use as evidenced in some of these photos. However, as I learned via The Kitchn's amazing post on how to temper chocolate to make a shell that actually stays put, it's always optimal to use chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa butter. It tastes infinitely better, obtains a perfect texture, and stays fresh without getting weird stale grooves on the chocolate shell. Check out the post by The Kitchn and Alexandra Whisnant's method on how to temper chocolate without a thermometer. Your life will be so much easier, I promise!
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 whole large egg
- yolk of a large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp almond extract (opt.)
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 1/2 cups wheat flour (I love King Arthur brand)
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- lemon or orange zest of 1/2 of a
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/3 cups 60-70% cacao dark chocolate (my favorite is Valrhona), chopped roughly
- 2/3 cup white chocolate (also my favorite is Valrhona), chopped roughly
- 1 cup dulce de leche