Cooking with Jovi: Alfajores de Maizena

To make Alfajores, you’ll need to get your human to bring home the following:

  • 2 1/2 cups cornstarch ( Maizena Brand)
  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter (two whole sticks!)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • The rind of one lemon, as small as possible.
  • 1-2 teaspoons caramel liqueur
  • Dulce de Leche


First of all, you’ll be in the kitchen for a while (up to 2 hours if you get distracted by bunny rabbits like I do), so go put on some good music to jam to. Wash your paws while you’re at it.

In a big bowl, beat the butter until creamy. You might have to put it in the microwave for 40 seconds to make it easier to work with, but it gets there after a good while of whisking.
Add the sugar gradually, beating until the mixture feels light and sandy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each one goes in. Then beat in the vanilla, lemon rind and liqueur.
Now we add the dry ingredients (the cornstarch, flour, baking powder and salt). Gradually add them to the butter mix one bit at a time, beating until thoroughly combined each time. This is a lot easier than putting in all the dry ingredients at one, and also helps keep the mess down.
Speaking of mess, time to use your paws. Put both of them in the bowl and start grabbing. Work the dough until it feels like it’s all the same one thing.
Roll the dough and flatten it with a rolling pin. I like to use a shot glass to cut the cookies, and do it over and over until the dough runs out.

Spread some butter on the cookie sheets, load them up and the’lly go in the oven at 350 degrees for about15 minutes.
Take them out of the baking sheets as soon as you get them out of the oven, and let them cool down. If you want to leave them in the fridge overnight, that’s ok. Just don’t leave the kitchen a mess before going to bed.

The cookies should be hard, but they do fall apart easily if you mishandle them! So be careful while you spread some Dulce de leche on a cookies and make a sandwich with another one. Then, you roll this on some shredded coconut, which ends up sticking all around because of the Dulce the Leche that squeezed out. You could also help it stick by spreading just a bit extra Dulce de Leche on the side of each “sandwich” before you roll it on the coconut.

Home made empanadas!

When Kelly and I were in LA a few weeks ago, we happened to find a store that resembled an Argentine market. It’s called “El Gaucho Meat Market“. We ate some delicious empanadas there, and we also found that they sell the actual dough to make them. Of course we bought some, because I wanted to make some of my own.

My mom passed on her own recipe, and I got to it!

First of all, there were onions to be chopped. We don’t even own a chopping board, so I had to get busy on the kitchen counter. I wasn’t expecting the process to be so laborious, and it was probably one of the most time-consuming tasks of the whole recipe.

I cried tears.

After chopping half a pound of onions, I had to cook them. I grabbed the biggest pot we own, turned the stove on and went to town. I was very pleasantly surprised as a very familiar smell started to invade my nostrils. It was a smell I wasn’t expecting to notice so early in the cooking process, but which I welcomed and took as signal that I was doing things the right way.

After the onions cook for a while, I put in a quarter pound of ground beef, and some spices (family secret!). The smell immediately turned into what I recognized as empanada filling, and everything was good in the world. Very good.

This is the stuff that empanadas are made of.

After the mix was ready, it’s empanada making time! This is the step where the acquisition of the special dough was critical, because it really does make the empanada unique. Maybe some day we’ll dare make our own dough… but baby steps!

The process was pretty easy, specially because I had some muscle memory for this step. When I was younger, I used to help my mom make them. Well, at least that’s what I remember. I probably only made one out of 3 dozens, but I still knew exactly what I was supposed to do, so I wasn’t afraid of messing up at this stage.
Shaping the empanadas

After making sure they all looked pretty, were nicely filled with all the mix they went in the oven. By the way, my mom’s recipe was perfect. There was no filling leftover, and all the empanadas had just enough filling! Quite impressive, specially after translating everything from kilograms to pounds.

Going in!

Only twenty minutes later, we had this wonderful looking pieces of heaven:
Fresh out of the oven empanadas.

They looked good. They smelled good. And they tasted great! They came out a little bit on the sweet side because I was weary of using too much salt, but that means that there’s room for improvement, and I know exactly what I can do better.

Dinner time!

Kelly and I sat down to eat, and thoroughly enjoyed them. Her parents came over to visit for a bit, and we had them try them. They also enjoyed them, which was a big relief for me! And just like that, about an hour and a half worth of work in cooking was gone, in less than 30 minutes. But it was well worth it, because it was tasty, and I had a lot of fun doing it.

As soon as we figure out a reliable place to get more of the dough, I’ll be making a lot more and having people over to share the wonderful taste of this food that I very much love, and am proud of being able to make.