The alfajor or alajú is a traditional sweet from Andalucia, dating back to the time when Moors ruled southern Spain and their kingdom was called Al-Andalus. The word alfajor is believed to derive from the Arabic for "excellent," or from the word alfahua meaning "honeycomb." Either way, once you taste the delicacy called alfajor, you can imagine that either one of these derivations makes sense. Almonds, hazelnuts, sesame and anise seeds, as well as bread crumbs, cinnamon and clove and all ground up together, then mixed with syrup and honey and shaped into small cylinders. They make a wonderful Christmas treat.
Since 2004, the town of Medina Sidonia, Cadiz is recognized as a geographically protected zone, and established a regulating council to protect the name and quality of the Alfajor de Medina Sidonia. Traditionally eaten in several regions in Spain for Christmas, alfajores are sold year-round in Medina Sidonia.
What about alfajores from South America? When Latin America was under Spanish rule, the recipe for alfajores was introduced and has evolved over time. Most Latin Americans today associate the alfajor with a sandwich cookie, filled with dulce de leche, or other creamy filling, although every region in South America has its own version.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Yield: 40 pieces
- 1 1/3 cup (120 gr) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 gr) water
- 3 3/4 cups (400 gr) bread crumbs
- 1 1/2 cups (200 gr) raw, unsalted whole hazelnuts
- 200 cups (300 gr) whole, blanched, peeled almonds*
- 3 Tbsp (20 gr) whole anise seeds
- 2/3 cup (75 gr) sesame seeds
- (1 gr) ground cilantro seeds (optional)
- 3.5 tsp (10 gr) ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp (1 gr) ground clove
- 11 oz (450 gr) honey
- Syrup for Coating:
- 7 fl oz (200 gr) water
- 1 cup (200 gr) granulated sugar
- Sugar for Coating:
- 1 cup powdered sugar
* Buying whole, raw almonds and blanching them at home is more economical than buying blanched or slivered almonds in small packages at the store. To blanch almonds is a simple process that takes only about 20 minutes for a half pound of almonds. Follow the easy instructions in How to Make Blanched Almonds from About's Guide to Greek Food.
Make a simple syrup. Pour water and sugar into a small saucepan. Heat on medium high heat. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil and reduce to a slow bowl. Cook until mixture is thickened to a syrup. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
While the syrup is boiling, toast almonds and hazelnuts under broiler on both sides. Process the nuts, anise, sesame and cilantro seeds in a food processor until nuts are are finely ground. Place in a medium size mixing bowl.
Add cinnamon and clove to the ingredients in mixing bowl and mix with a wooden spoon.
Measure honey into an oven proof measuring cup and heat in microwave (or in a water bath on stove) until almost boiling.
Pour syrup into dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Gradually pour warm honey into bowl while mixing. Mix ingredients thoroughly.
While mixture is still warm, form into little "logs" with your hands. Mixture will be sticky and can be difficult to work with. So, it may be necessary to press hard to form the "logs." Place on waxed paper or parchment to cool.
Make simple syrup in saucepan. Remove from heat and cool for 5-10 minutes. Roll alfajores in syrup, then roll in powdered sugar. Cool on waxed paper.
When alfajores are cool, wrap in food grade tissue paper.
Note: Alfajores are very sweet, even without the syrup coating, so we usually skip the syrup coating, and roll them in powdered sugar.