Thursday, February 22, 2007
To my dining companion's dismay, I had not tried a bakery-made alfajor in Uruguay until today; nearly five months after arriving in Uruguay. One time in desperation of a sugary fix, I purchased a packaged alfajor, only to be greatly disappointed in taste, freshness, and quality. One bite and it was in the trash. And actually, I did indulge in a chocolatey version while in Buenos Aires, which melted in my mouth like a soft truffle. But today at tea time I was determined to have freshly baked and superior quality dulce de leche treat.
I have yet to elaborate on dulce de leche, and how much the Uruguayans love it, but as a preview, the alfajor is the perfect representative of the national sweet.
An alfajor, pictured above, in its most simple form is a type of masa or masita, which are small cookies that normally have a filling. The alfajor in particular has two soft round cookies held together by a generous dollop of dulce de leche, and then doused in powdered sugar.
I thought I had had my fill of dulce de leche, but I bit in and I was hooked. With powdered sugar covered fingers holding on to half of my delicate cookie, the freshness of the masa and sweetness of the filling lingered on my tongue. One more bite and the little treat was gobbled up...leaving me wanting more.
So where does this delectable dulce come from? The spelling of the word gives a clue, and history confirms that it comes from the Middle East. Alfajor is derived from the Arabic word, al-hasu, which means "stuffed." Making it's way to Uruguay in mid 1800's, the alfajor has continued its popularity here and on other side of the river. In fact, it is said that in a population of 36 million Argentine inhabitants, 6 million alfajores are consumed daily!!
There are, of course, variations on the theme. Some alfajores in the confeterías will be covered in nieve or snow of coconut flakes. They vary in size as well, ranging from bite size to the size of a small donut. As mentioned, packaged alfajores are a different story. Most are covered in either white or dark chocolate, and have two layers of dulce de leche between three layers of cake. Oreo has marketed a type of alfajor, which is a cake like version of 20th century America´s most consumed cookie.
Ok, so who wants me to bring some home for them?
Now if any savvy readers could just shed a little light on a alfajor mystery of mine....
What is "agua helada"??
'Till next time....que aproveche!
Recommended location for the sugar fix:
Oro de Rhin,
-Punta Carretas Shopping Mall and
-Centro, Convención 1403 esq. Colonia
Argentine's famous Alfajor
Popular Uruguayan packaged Alfajores