An alfajor is a type of cookie commonly found in South American countries, and in Spain. A Spanish alfajor, though it has the same name, is quite different than the alfajores of South America. The Spanish alfajor is a pastry made with honey, almonds, and spices, and is usually consumed during the Christmas holiday. South American alfajores are made with layers of cookie or cake-like confection, most commonly two layers, in between which there is a filling of some kind or another.
The filling in the middle is what makes an alfajor an alfajor. In fact, the word alfajor is derived an Arabic word meaning filled or stuffed. As its etymological roots suggest, the alfajor confection originated in the Middle East. It is thought that the alfajor was brought to from the Middle East to the Iberian Peninsula, and from there, to South America. The alfajor has been highly popular in South America since the middle of the 20th century, especially in the countries of Argentina and Uruguay. The alfajor is also particularly popular in Peru, but can be found in Ecuador, Paraguay and Brazil as well.
The most common type of South American alfajor is made with two white-flour cookies joined together with a dulce de leche filling. Other fillings include jam, chocolate, or a filling called manjar blanco, which is made from milk and similar to dulce de leche, but is white instead of caramel-colored. In some alfajores, the cookie or cake layer is chocolate flavored.
The alfajor may be bare, or have a coating of powdered sugar, chocolate, white chocolate. Another coating found on many alfajores is meringue, a crispy coating made from sugar and egg whites. This type of coating is known as a “snow coating,” because it looks like white peaks of snow. An afajor with a meringue covering is called an “alfajor de nieve,” which means snow alfajor. When the alfajor has no coating, it will often be rolled in coconut shavings, which adhere to the sticky dulce de leche filling, and prevent the filling from getting all over the place.
An “alfahor triple” is an alfajor that is double layered, with a third cookie in the middle. One very popular and widely known maker of alfajores is Havanna. Havanna stores offer alfajores in the traditional flavors, including the typical “black alfajores,” which are coated in dark chocolate, and the “white alfajores,” which are coated in white chocolate. Other more creative combinations include peanuts and walnuts.