Alfajores at Barros Luco
Last week, I was reading online about one of my favorite things in the known universe: cookies. I came across an article on a kind of cookie I had never tried before, called an alfajor. I learned that alfajores are sandwich cookies that are traditionally made in some South and Central American countries. The description I read was a little vague, but one phrase seemed to stand out on the page: dulce de leche. Alfajores have layers of biscuits that are glued together with the sweet, milky syrup.
That was that. I had to have some.
After a few minutes of online research Iâ€™d come up with a list of local places that sell the cookies. Then, I hit my first roadblock. It was Sunday, and almost all the places on my list were closed â€“ all but one: Barros Luco, a Chilean restaurant on Fairmount. I put on my sneakers and was out the door.
When I walked in for the first time, everyone in the restaurant had a golden empanada in their hand. I was craving some protein and decided that an empanada would make a nice appetizer before I moved on to cookies.
My chicken empanada was a thing of beauty. The crust was soft and flaky (even more so than the crusts on La Chilenitaâ€™s empanadas). The filling had ground chicken and onions, along with a handful of other ingredients, and it was spiced just right. On another visit, I ordered what was described as a spinach-and-cheese empanada. Despite the fact that it had no cheese whatsoever, it was just as tasty as the chicken variety. Then again, you could probably put anything in that crust and Iâ€™d gobble it up without complaint.
Anythingâ€¦except one of Barros Lucoâ€™s tamales, which I tasted on my most recent visit. I carefully unwrapped my tamale from its banana-leaf packaging, and what emerged can best be described as creamed corn. I suppose the tamale would have made a great snack for, say, babies or people with no teeth. But I prefer my tamales with a little more density.
But I wasnâ€™t going to let one goopy tamale spoil my appetite for desert. The empanadas were great, but the whole point of my trip to Barros Luco had been to get some alfajores, and I sure wasnâ€™t disappointed. But I must say, the cookies were not what I had expected. When I first looked at them, they looked like stacks of crackers sandwiched together with dulce de leche. And as it turns out, thatâ€™s exactly what they were. But you know what? They were fantastic. Better than fantastic, because the idea was so simple.
The crackers may or may not have been homemade; as far as I could tell there was nothing special about them. The genius of these cookies lay in their proportions. Three crackers were separated by the perfect amount of dulce de leche, and the whole thing was rolled in shredded coconut for a little extra texture. The result was a perfect balance of crunchy, chewy, and sweet. It just goes to show that reading about cookies online can be an extremely fruitful endeavor.
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