Alfajores are served in various forms throughout Latin America. What they have in common is their delicious, melt-in-the-mouth texture. In Peru, they're sandwiched with a milk caramel called manjar blanco, which is similar to dulce de leche but paler in colour. We've made our own here, but shop-bought dulce de leche works just as well. It's worth rendering your own lard for this recipe - it makes so much difference to the flavour, but if you're serving vegetarians, by all means swap the lard for butter.
- 525 gm plain flour (3½ cups)
- 2 tbsp icing sugar, sieved, plus extra for dusting
- 250 gm lard (see note)
- Desiccated coconut, to serve
- 110 gm caster sugar (1/2 cup)
- 10 gm butter, diced
- Scraped seeds of 1 vanilla bean
- 1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 500 ml milk (2 cups)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp liquid glucose
- 1For manjar blanco, heat caster sugar, butter,
vanilla seeds, bicarbonate of soda and 125ml milk
in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring
to dissolve sugar. Bring to the boil and cook,
stirring continuously, until mixture turns caramel
(5-7 minutes). Add another 125ml milk and brown
sugar, and stir until mixture thickens (4-5 minutes).
Add glucose and remaining milk, reduce heat to
low and stir until thick (25-30 minutes). Remove
from heat, stir for 5 minutes until slightly cooled,
then transfer to a container, cover and refrigerate
until chilled and thick. Manjar blanco will keep
refrigerated for a month.
- 2Preheat oven to 180C. Combine flour, icing
sugar and ½ tsp salt in a bowl, add lard and cut in
with a knife or pastry scraper until coarse crumbs
form. Add 60ml lukewarm water and mix to
combine (if mixture is still too dry, add a splash of
extra water). Turn out onto a work surface and
bring dough together. Form into a disc, wrap in
plastic wrap and refrigerate to rest for 30 minutes.
- 3Roll pastry on a lightly floured work surface to
5mm thick, cut out 5cm rounds with a pastry
cutter (we used a fluted cutter), place on a baking
tray lined with baking paper and bake until set
but not coloured (10-12 minutes). Cool on tray.
- 4To serve, spread or pipe manjar blanco on half
the biscuits, scatter coconut around the edges,
then sandwich with remaining biscuits and dust
with icing sugar.
To render lard, cook chopped pork back-fat in a saucepan over low heat with 5mm water (to prevent burning) until the fat renders, then strain and refrigerate until solid. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.