Alfajores de Maicena (Argentine Sandwich Cookies)

I’m on a roll over here with my nostalgic Argentine recipes, and this one for Alfajores or sandwich cookies, I can confirm, is something you will want to try at home! I spent a lot of my time in Buenos Aires eating these cookies, which are sandwiched together by the most velvety Dulce de Leche (caramel). They are often served as an accompaniment to a cup of coffee or enjoyed as an on-the-go snack by people all over the city. The basis of this particular type of alfajor is corn meal and while it would make sense for them to just be gluten free, in Argentina they can sometimes contain hidden wheat flour or traces. I’m delighted to tell you however that this recipe is 100% gluten free, and you will absolutely not miss the gluten!

I was able to score a jar of imported Dulce de Leche for this particular recipe from a lovely Argentine food stall in Borough Market in London – La Porteña – but this decadently delicious spread is available in multiple retail outlets across the UK now and can be sourced online via the likes of Amazon. The corn flour I always go for meanwhile is Harina P.A.N. – a widely used Latin American white corn flour, which is available in food markets across London and in niche local grocery stores. Alternatively of course, this flour can be purchased online via multiple webpages – just be sure to check out the shopping tab on your Google browser for all your options.

Ingredients

150g x Unsalted Butter (softened)
4 x Large Egg Yolks
300g x Harina P.A.N. White Corn Flour
60g x White Caster Sugar
4 x Teaspoons Gluten Free Baking Powder
1/3 Teaspoon Sea Salt
250g x Dulce de Leche
20g x Gluten Free Plain Flour (for rolling)

Method

  1. Using an electric whisk or hand mixer, combine the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl.
  2. Sieve the corn flour into a separate bowl along with your baking powder and salt.
  3. Gradually add the dry ingredients into the combined egg and sugar, using a spatula to ensure the ingredients are evenly mixed (warning, this can take up to 10 minutes!).
  4. Using your hands, knead the mixture together for an additional 5 minutes until you have a bread dough-like consistency.
  5. Create a large ball with the dough, wrap in cling-film and place in the fridge to chill for two hours.
  6. Preheat your fan oven to 155 degrees Celsius and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  7. Sprinkle the gluten free flour on a dry surface and using a sharp knife, divide your pre-chilled dough into two portions for ease.
  8. Using a rolling pin, roll out each portion of dough until it has a thickness of around 1cm. With a small cookie cutter create alfajor shapes out of the dough. I prefer to use a small cookie cutter for dinky-sized alfajores but the diameter of the cutter is up to you (there are alfajores of all sizes in Argentina!)
  9. Bake the cookies in the oven for 8 minutes before removing to cool on the baking trays for up to 30 minutes. Once cooled, transfer to a cooling rack.
  10. Create your alfajores by placing one tea spoon of Dulce de Leche in the centre of one cookie and placing another cookie on top. Lightly press down to bring the Dulce de Leche closer to the edges of the sandwich.
  11. Transfer your alfajores to a plate or container and chill in the fridge for up to an hour so the Dulce de Leche sets.
  12. Enjoy with tea, coffee or just simply on their own. Buen provecho!

Empanadas de Carne (Savoury Argentine Beef Pastries)

From a culinary perspective, many people associate Argentina with its prime cuts of meat and famous barbecues. Those who enjoy history meanwhile, will know that a lot of cuisine, particularly served in the capital of Buenos Aires, was inspired by Italian immigrants who began to make their way in large numbers to the South American city in the mid 1800s. Empanadas however, Argentina’s other staple foodstuff, bear resemblance to the Cornish Pasty and in fact were allegedly inspired by the English savoury treat itself.

Ever since moving back from Buenos Aires, I have been making empanadas at home and trying to recreate the flavours I would experience there multiple times a week, and sometimes even multiple times a day! Thanks to the introduction of ready to roll gluten free pastry by trusty Jus-Rol in the UK in the last couple of years, my empanada recipe is even easier to throw together and enjoy at home. Highly recommend these delicious savoury pastries as a snack or a light dinner with a side salad and a glass of Malbec, por supuesto!

Ingredients

1 x Jus-Rol Gluten Free Puff Pastry Ready Rolled Sheet (280g)
50g x Lean Beef Mince
1 x Tsp Olive Oil
1 x Small Onion, Finely Chopped
½ x Red Pepper, Finely Chopped
5 x Cherry Tomatoes, Finely Chopped
1 x Boiled Egg, Peeled and Chopped
43g x Pitted Black Olives, Chopped
2 x Eggs, Beaten (to Glaze the Empanadas)
1 x Tsp Oregano
½ x Tsp Paprika
½ x Tsp Garlic Powder
½ x Beef Stock Cube (I use Knorr)
80ml x Red Wine
Pinch Salt & Pepper

Method

  1. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and red pepper and sautee until soft.
  2. Add the mince and stir well to ensure it mixes properly with the onion and pepper. Cook uncovered for around 10 minutes.
  3. Once the beef has browned, add the cherry tomatoes, black olives, oregano, paprika, garlic powder, red wine, salt & pepper. Crumble the stock cube in and stir mixture well.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer mixture, partially covered by a lid, for 1 hour. Check every 10 minutes and stir.
  5. Once the liquid in the mixture has evaporated, remove from heat. Leave the mixture to cool for around 30-40 minutes before adding the chopped boiled egg and mixing well (you do not want the beef filling to be hot when you prep the empanadas to avoid the pastry falling apart).
  6. When the beef mixture has cooled, heat the oven to 170 degrees (Fan) and line two to three baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. On a flat surface, lightly roll out the Jus-Rol Gluten Free pastry sheet to expand slightly but do not over-roll as this will warm up the pastry and cause it to split.
  8. Using a sharp knife, divide the rolled out sheet into three columns longways and then again across, to create 9 squares, measuring around 9-10cm across and lengthways each.
  9. To fill the empanadas, place a square of the pastry in the palm of one hand and place approximately two teaspoons of the beef mixture in the middle.
  10. Using a pastry brush, spread a little of the beaten egg around the edges of the pastry. Turn the square slightly in your hand so it’s at a diagonal, and bring the top and the bottom points of the pastry together into a rough triangle shape by folding gently.
  11. To close each empanada, twist the three edges of the triangle in towards the centre of the pastry and stick down lightly with egg wash to ensure the pastry is closed (otherwise mixture will seep out of the pastry while cooking). Feel free to also gently press the back of a fork onto the edges if this makes sealing the square easier.
  12. Place each raw empanada gently on to parchment paper-lined baking trays immediately after prepping to avoid overheating the pastry in your hands, leaving several centimetres of space in between each empanada as they will expand in the oven.
  13. Using your pastry brush once more, lightly brush all the raw empanadas with the beaten egg to create a nice glaze.
  14. Bake the empanadas for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
  15. Leave empanadas to rest for around 15 minutes before serving.

Empanadas by Lincoln’s Cafe, Holborn

Where From? Lincoln’s Cafe, Holborn
Available in Store from Monday to Friday

As a massive empanada fan, I cannot tell you my delight in coming across what Lincoln’s Cafe has to offer. This modest eatery tucked away behind Holborn station in the West End of London not only offers gluten free bread as an option for its vast sandwich menu, but a selection of homemade Colombian savoury treats too. Pictured, the Empanada de Pollo (Chicken), is a must-try if you’re passing, and even if you’re not, I would recommend the trip purely for this! This empanada is corn based and is perfectly crispy on the outside when heated and soft as a pillow inside, jam-packed full of flavour. Whilst you’re there, you would be silly to not also try some of the Pan de Bono (traditional Colombian cheese bread), an arepa or a vegetable stuffed empanada. This store closes early every day so make your way there before 4pm to avoid disappointment!