Dulce de Leche, a sweet and milky concoction that tastes of caramel and vanilla, is what holds Latin America together: from the southernmost Chile, where it’s called ‘manjar,’ via Colombian ‘arequipe’ to North American Mexican ‘cajeta’, Dulce de Leche is ubiquitous. Used as a spread for breakfast as well as a filling for cakes, it seems there is always a time and a place for adding a little of dulce de leche.I’ve already been using it in cakes, cupcakes and as a filling for churros, so it’s high time I bring you the recipe! In fact, there are two recipes: the ‘convenience’ one that involves heating up a couple of cans of condensed milk, nothing else, and the fun one that requires a witch’s cauldron or similar. In both versions, you are boiling insane amounts of milk and sugar until they turn into caramel; added bicarbonate of soda aids the browning effect and vanilla gives it a rounder flavour.
For the ‘convenient’ version, simply place a can of sweetened condensed milk into a pot of water and bring to boil. Make sure the can is completely immersed in the water at all time: there needs to be at least 5 cm or 2 1/2 in of water on top of the can. Simmer it, covered, for 3 1/2 hours, turning the can upside down halfway through the process. Then remove the can and leave it to cool down. Don’t attempt to open it before as it will invariably burn you! Trust me …
The c’assic cauldron version is less sweet than the canned one, and takes a little more effort. Don’t be tempted to mess around with the amount of sugar – you need it to get the spreadable consistency of the finished product! I found the following recipe in my new favourite cookbook, Marical E. Presilla’s Gran Cocina Latina. It’s an absolute dream of a book – an encyclopedia, even, of all food-related things Latin. But more of that later.
The ‘classic’ version takes a little less time, most of which is spent just occasionally stirring the liquid. After about 1 1/2 hours you’ll notice a pronounced change, as when it begins to bubble wildly you’ll need to stir more regularly and check up on the process. If it takes longer, it’s because you messed with the amount of sugar I told you to use (I know who you are!). In that case you will have to boil down the liquid until you get the right ratio of sugar to milk, leaving you with pretty much the same result, just slightly less of it.
I used a sugar thermometer, but you don’t really need one: simply spoon a little of the thickened liquid onto a cold saucer and run your spoon or finger through it: if it stays separate it’s ready:
I poured the sauce into the prepared jars, which I placed in ice-cold water to speed up the process:
Once it’s cooled down the consistency will be almost like custard – perfect to fill biscuits or churros!
- 480g caster sugar
- 3.5 l or 6 pt full-fat milk
- 1 vanilla pod, halved lengthwise
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Place a large heavy casserole over medium heat. Once the bottom is quite hot, ad 3-4 tbsp of the sugar and keep stirring for a few minutes until it has caramelised to a lovely dark golden hue. Then add the remaining ingredients and mix. The milk will turn a light brown colour, a little like milky coffee.
- Keep simmering, without a lid, stirring occasionally, for a good hour and a half. The liquid will reduce greatly in that time.
- If you have a sugar thermometer, get it ready. If not, place a few saucers in your freezer: you can test the consistency of the liquid by leafing it to cool and havingan ice-cold surface will speed this process up considerably.
- Wash your jars and place them side-by-side into a large tray filled with cold water.
- Once the liquid is bubbling wildly, you will need to stir more regularly. Insert your thermometer or get a cold saucer ready: simply spoon a little of the thickened liquid onto the saucer and run your finger through it: if it stays separated it's ready. Alternatively, once the temperature reaches 107C or 225F you're as good as done.
- Pour the sauce into the prepared jars and add some ice cubes to the water that surrounds them. Leave to cool completely before closing the lids.
- Dulce de Leche can be stored in the fridge for a few months and will make a wonderful present.
A little jar of dulce de leche, perhaps with the suggestion to spread in on bread or pancakes, will make a welcome Christmas present. Alternatively, you could just keep it all to yourself, or even bring a little of it to this week’s Fiesta Friday over at Angie’s, where we are joined by as co-hosts Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and Kaila @ GF LIfe 24/7 – check it out, or, even better, join in!