Alfajores come in different forms in different parts of the world. Here in Peru they are most easily described as a sandwich biscuit, however they are so much more than that.
Two layers of plain biscuit filled with manjar blanco (as a norm), and then dusted with a fine layer of icing sugar. They are normally bitesize, so you can eat about 20 before you start to feel like maybe you shouldn’t have! I say normally, because they actually come in many different sizes, from a mere mouthful to a cake-sized sharing alfajor.
The biscuit is from a simple recipe made with a wheat flour alongside butter/fat and baking powder. I would describe it as a less rich shortbread, but neither as sweet or as buttery. This recipe does change to allow for a variety in alfajores. For example, the recipe alters when maicena (cornflour UK/corn starch US) is used in place of wheat flour, or when cocoa powder is added for a chocolate biscuit.
The recipe is also changed to make way for honey to fill the alfajor instead of manager blanco. These little guys are quite different from their manjar blanco brothers, and you will find that people often have a preference for one or the other.
Alfajores are perfect when you just need a mouthful of something sweet. Perhaps to serve alongside a cup of tea, or as an end to a meal. They are the perfect little ‘bocadito’.
Where would I recommend in Lima to eat alfajores?
This is a small chain with little shops and stalls through Lima – with a couple in other provinces. They are exactly what their name suggests and serve alfajores in a variety of flavours and sizes. I love their little box of 10 wheat alfajores, or their boxes of 8 maicena alfajores rolled in coconut (see picture above). They also sell ‘make-your-own’ packs (these are comprised of little biscuits, manjar blanco and icing sugar), which make for great souvenirs or gifts. As do their pots flavoured manjar blanco, ranging from the classic manjar to the flavours of lúcuma or coffee.
There are many stores throughout Lima. Check here for addresses and maps!
I love this little cafe in the neighbourhood of Monterrico, and they serve the best alfajores de miel (honey alfajores). They’re about the same size as a regular alfajor, but they have these little holes in each of the 3 thin layers of biscuit and in between these layers you find the sweet, sticky honey. It’s not a runny honey (could you imagine how messy that would be!), but instead a thick, syrupy honey that adheres the biscuits together. These are delightful, and the fact that the biscuits are not sugary means that the overall level of sweetness is just perfect.
Calle Torre Tagle 249, Miraflores
Av. El Polo 297, Santiago de Surco
What about outside of Lima….?
We need to go very far afield for this one and back to my homeland. Lima in London was started by the Peruvian chef Virgilio Martinez, who also owns the extremely successful restaurant here in Lima, Central. I was lucky enough to go to Lima when I was last home, and try their Sunday Lunch menu. The dessert came as a trio, and one of these samplings was an alfajor. I have honestly never tasted an alfajor quite like it. The biscuit quite literally melted in my mouth, and actually was much more similar to a shortbread than the ones here in Peru. It was as light as a feather and so delicate, but there was enough of the biscuit to not be overpowered by the manjar blanco. Absolutely beautiful.
31 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 1JH