Argentina is today the world’s largest consumer of the alfajor, possibly the most complex and ancient type of cookie in the world. The alfajor started off its life as an Arab delicacy which was brought to Andalucia, Spain, in the 8th century when the Moors invaded the Iberian peninsula. When the tradition spread to South America, the recipe was modified to suit the different conditions of the region, including its different resources and local ingredients.
In Argentina and Uruguay, alfajores usually contain dulce de leche, the nations’ favourite milk-based confection. Having drawn comparisons to the French macaroon, the alfajor has a sandwich-style structure. The more traditional alfajores only have two layers of biscuit and are coated in desiccated coconut whilst the more recent additions to the alfajor family have more layers and a wider variety of fillings and toppings. There are almost as many varieties of alfajores in the world as there are of birds in the Amazon, often making it hard to sift the wheat from the chaff.
There does exist the odd shocker on the market, such as the brittle and unsatisfying Alfajor Pepitos, based on the chocolate-chip cookie of the same name, or the supposedly healthy Chocoarroz alfajores which have now been mostly discredited (or should be). So, after enthusiastically researching the world of Argentine alfajores, here’s the Indy’s round-up of the ones which came out on top, all things considered.
Havanna Alfajor de Fruta
The Argentine chain is famous for its alfajores and sets a national standard for their quality. What’s more, Havanna are just as good at coffee and milkshakes as they are at alfajores, making it the perfect place to catch your breath during a long day out. One of their most alternative options, the alfajor de fruta, is also one of their most successful. Quince marmalade sandwiched between two biscuits coated in meringue, it mixes the traditional Argentine flavour of quince with a contemporary meringue twist – an original, experimental alfajor for a fruitier, more refreshing experience than the dairy-clogged usual. Havanna are known for their affordable prices but be prepared to pay a little more (around $9) for their products than supermarket goods.
Milka Xtreme Chocolate
One for the chocolate lovers, this alfajor is to chocolate what the average Havanna alfajor is to dulce de leche. The world-famous chocolate brand Milka brings its considerable talents to this Hispanic treat, coating the alfajor with milk chocolate. One layer of dulce de leche and one layer of chocolate mousse make this an indulgence perfect for dessert or comfort food. Available in kiosks for around $6.
Original Alfajores, Confiteria Caren
For an artisanal take on the traditional alfajor, try this perfectly textured double-layered alfajor with top quality dulce de leche and just the right amount of coconut not to overpower the taste. Sold in Confiteria Caren in the Recoleta neighbourhood (Av Pueyrredón 1881) for around $11, they are worth the journey and price tag for the authentic Argentine alfajor experience. Selected from the best boutique bakeries in upmarket Buenos Aires, Confiteria Caren won’t disappoint the discerning customer. Although modern-day chocolate-coated alfajores may be the popular choice with more unadventurous customers, the delicious recipe of the original alfajor summons up Eastern flavours which can’t be compared to those of the newer versions. The honeyed biscuit and grated coconut of this alfajor make it a subtle, aromatic, and timeless sweet.
Jorgelín Triple White
Jorgelín is a commercial, mass-produced Argentine alfajor with three layers of soft biscuit and two thick layers of dulce de leche, all encased in a more-ish coating of vanilla-flavoured candy. These are for when you’re looking for a hard dose of butter and sugar without gourmet pretensions. Like all great things, there is both a dark and a light side to the Jorgelín alfajor – the ultimate satisfaction; it may also be the ultimate guilt trip.
In fast food terms, it is the McDonald’s or Kentucky’s meal of alfajores – they can be bought individually on virtually every street in Buenos Aires. At $6 each, they’re affordable in moderation, but that moderation can be hard to maintain in the case of such an addictive snack. Watch out – they might ruin you.
Available in multi-packs in larger supermarkets, Game are a cheaper option for less monied alfajor fans. However, they are not at all less tasty and are available in ‘black’ and ‘white’ versions, coated in different kinds of chocolate. My vote is on the white chocolate-coated ones, as the creamy, simple sweetness of the white chocolate perfectly complements the caramel flavour of the dulce de leche which is layered between the biscuits. The economic viability of these will either detract from potential calorie-induced guilt or add to the appreciation of their reinvigorating, meal-worthy quality, rendering them a wise choice for many. You can get a pack of three for $14.