Caramel sweetens Argentine cookies

October 15, 2010 (CHICAGO) Alfajores are essentially cookies with a secret ingredient- dulce de leche, a milk caramel. A handful of bakeries make the homemade sweets, including a new business where they're created by just one person.

Like a lot of kids who grew up in Argentina, Lucila Giagrande remembers eating alfajores.

"My grandmother used to make those all the time. We would love just to wait for them to get out of the oven and we would just want to eat those," she said.

Giagrande now makes them by the dozen, working out of a commercial space at the Logan Square Kitchen, then packaging them and either shipping or delivering them herself.

"Alfajores is a concept, basically. You have different types of alfajores. The one that I have been working on the most is the alfajore Mycena, which is a cornstarch-based dough," Giagrande said.

She combines sifted flour with that cornstarch, plus a bit of baking soda and baking powder, mixing the dry ingredients up well. In a separate bowl, sugar is added to softened butter along with some grated lemon zest, vanilla extract and just the slightest amount of amaretto. Thick, sweet honey goes into the wet mixture, as do egg yolks.

Giagrande then combines the dry mix with the wet one, keeping her stand mixer on low, as she slowly adds the ingredients together. Once she's removed the dough, she briefly kneads it on the counter, working and stretching it. She cuts off a hunk, rolls it to a thickness of about a quarter inch, then begins cutting out circles, which are placed onto a baking sheet. They go into the oven, and after about 10 minutes they're ready for the dulce de leche, the caramel.

"Dulce de leche is milk and sugar boiled down, to creaminess, so it takes like 7-8 hours, until the sugar condenses in the milk and it becomes creamy," said Giagrande.

It's piped onto one of the cookies, then sandwiched between another; the excess is spread around the outside, forming a sticky barrier which grabs onto the fresh coconut it's rolled in. Giagrande also makes versions dipped in milk chocolate, as well as Argentinean favorites like guava pasta and dulce de leche triangles, or even a milky-sweet tres leches cake in a cup. But she says it's the alfajore she is most proud of, since it reminds her of growing up.

"The crumbly texture of the cookies and the combination of the creamy dulce de leche, when you bite into them, that mouthful of richness," she said.

To order:

Call Lucila at 773-354-3830
or e-mail at

For sale at

Portage Park Farmers Market
Oct. 17 and 31, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
4100 N. Long Ave.

Logan Square Farmers Market
Every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
2135 N. Milwaukee Avenue

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