Dulce de leche is often mistaken as caramel. It looks like caramel and is as sweet as caramel but the ingredients and the way of making is completely different. Dulce de leche, in Spanish mean ‘candy of milk’ and is used as a topping for ice creams, cakes, cookies and a variety of other desserts. At home, it can be made simply with a can of condensed milk. Making dulce de leche at home is very easy and not technical at all, if the steps are followed properly. However, making caramel at home is tricky. The perfect caramel requires a certain amount of technical dessert making experience and definitely, a cooking thermometer. Sugar, water, whipped cream and butter is required for making caramel and whereas, for dulce de leche, we only require a can of condensed milk.
Nestle already sells dulce de leche in canned form. However, I am yet to find that in India. Condensed milk, on the other hand, is a kitchen pantry essential in most homes. We have Nestle as well as Amul making condensed milk in India.
Years before my days of food blogging started, I have always had a full stocked pantry with a variety of sauces, condiments, spices, toppings and all. It would be impossible to pin point the time when I develped my love for cooking. I reckon, it would be sometime during my college days in Goa and it piqued when I went to Cardiff and was exposed to a host of bottled and canned products at Tesco. Till such time, we did not have really big departmental stores in India. Moving around the aisles of Tesco, I was overwhelmed. That’s when I would pick up various ingredients and come home and try making something out of them. As time passed by and I realised my creativity in cooking and my understanding of ingredients and flavours, I started developing these various sauces and toppings on my own at home. I am sure there are many like me but I get immense satisfaction when I create something from scratch.
Enough with self admiration, let me take you through how to make dulce de leche at home. Once you do it, you can use to it make brownies (will post a recipe soon), sandwich cookies, toppings for ice cream, base for ice cream and many more. The options are in abundance, as long as you let your creativty loose.
How to make Dulce de leche – the easier method
The traditional method of making dulce de leche is very time consuming. It involves simmering the milk with sugar over a long period of time till the water evaporates and the milk starts to thicken. The easier method is what I will describe here and for your benefit, will also type on the printable version. All you need is a can of sealed condensed milk and a large sauce pan with water. I belileve that dulce de leche can also be made in a pressure cooker. However, to be on the safe side, I prefer to make it in a sauce pan. The sauce pan has to be a large one, so that if you place the can of condensed milk horizontally, the water level should ideally be at least two to three inches above the can. You can keep the can vertically but that would mean a pot with greater depth and also, as the water simmers away, the can jumps because of air pressure and makes a lot of noise. Hence, I prefer to keep it horizontally. The label from the can of condensed milk, if any, should also be removed. Nowadays, the Indian ones have done away with the paper label. Let the water simmer for over two hours. For a fairly dark dulce de leche, you need to continue cooking the can for about 2 and 1/2 hours. Three hours would give you a nice dark dulce de leche. If you are looking for a thick hardened variety, then cook for four hours. Two points to keep in mind would be to keep the saucepan uncovered and the water level higher than the condensed milk can. If the water is evaporating, just add more boiling water to it.
Word of caution: Do not leave it completely unguarded. If the water level goes down, then it might burn or the can might explode. Once done, open the can only when it has cooled down. The dulce de leche hardens as it cools down. The top part is thinner and the bottom part is thicker, which is fine. All you need to do is stir it.
You can keep your dulce de leche in the refrigerator for a month. When you use it, just take it out and reheat in a double boiler or in the microwave on medium power (just like melting chocolate). You can use it as a spread, in toppings, in baking and just dunking your spoon and eating it. I cannot tell you how divine it is. So, go ahead and make you own dulce de leche at home and thank me later.
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