Dulces: Alfajores de Chocolate (Argentine Chocolate-Dulce de Leche Sandwich Cookies)

17 Beautiful Holiday Cookie Recipes

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While I wasn't looking to construct an exact replica of the Havanna brand alfajor negro (chocolate alfajor), I did want to satiate my craving for that sandwich cookie's subtle chocolate flavor, almond and citrus zest essence, cake-like texture, dulce de leche filling, and chocolate coating.

Havanna alfajores originated in a café bearing that name in Mar del Plata in the late 1940s. Arguably, the name is synonymous with "alfajor." Though available in some specialty shops and by mail order these days, when I was younger I had to rely on my parents' friends to bring a box when they traveled. Said box was bright yellow and sturdy—grown-up and sophisticated in my eyes—and each alfajor was wrapped in gold paper. Carefully denuding one of the prized cookies was a Bucketsian moment.

My recipe went through quite a few tests, the cookies steadily filling zipper-lock bags labeled with notes, "Too crumbly!" "You need to add more booze!" "Maybe you shouldn't use cornstarch?" (I'm an obsessive compulsive note-taker and write to myself as if I were someone else entirely—a psych ward patient, perhaps.)

Adding cocoa powder to my plain alfajor recipe was a cheap shortcut and ultimately a flop; while I was looking for a shortbread-like texture in that version, here I needed a crumb more reminiscent of cake. These cookies are meant to be tender and thus should not be overbaked. The flavor is delicate cocoa, orange, honey, and almond, coated in chocolate, and naturally, generously filled with rich dulce de leche.