Traditional Argentinian biscuits, filled with dulce de leche and smothered in chocolate
Arriving in Argentina from the Middle East via Spain, the history of this squidgy sandwich of a biscuit is as complex as that of the country itself. Etymologists suppose that the word ‘alfajore’ stems from the Arabic ‘alfahua’, meaning ‘honeycomb’—which makes sense, in so far as the tooth-shattering sweetness of the alfajores could only really be comparable to a substance that’s more than 80 per cent sugar.
But it doesn’t really account for its transition from a chewy biscuit of honey, almonds and spices enjoyed at Christmas (as it is in Spain), to the sweet, silky cookie sandwiches stuffed with dulce de leche that are enjoyed “at any time you like,” Federico of Porteña says.
Perhaps it was too healthy. Perhaps the almonds were hard to source. Most likely, to our minds, however that having invented the symphony of sensation that is dulce de leche (that’s caramelised milk and sugar for the unenlightened) the Argentinians had no choice but to spread it as far and wide as possible. Whatever it was, the sweet we enjoy from Porteña is as far removed from its Hispanic origins as Bread Ahead’s hot cross doughnuts were from traditional hot cross buns.
A dusting of icing sugar
There are many variations. Some are cloaked in coconut, some with egg white and sugar, some with nothing but a fine dusting of icing sugar to hide the immodest amount of dulce de leche layered between the two biscuits. The chocolate covered one, however is the most traditional, and it’s this that Porteña have recently introduced—not the luxury Havanna chocolate alfajores (the best brand in Argentina), but handmade fresh every day.
They are for schoolchildren. They are for adults. They are big enough to share, yet small enough to swallow solo. They are three of mankind’s finest creations rolled, wrapped and swirled into one meltingly soft and velvety bed of scrumptiousness. If Friday’s made biscuits, they’d make these.