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Little Peruvian alfajores

Alfajores are served in various forms throughout Latin America. What they have in common is their delicious, melt-in-the-mouth texture.

By Emma Knowles
  • Serves 15
  • 30 mins preparation
  • 50 mins cooking (plus resting)
Little Peruvian alfajores
Little Peruvian alfajores

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.

Ingredients

  • 525 gm plain flour (3½ cups)
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar, sieved, plus extra for dusting
  • 250 gm lard (see note)
  • Desiccated coconut, to serve
Manjar blanco
  • 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

Method

Main
  • 1
    For 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.
  • 2
    Preheat 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.
  • 3
    Roll 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.
  • 4
    To 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.

Notes

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.