I remember a few years ago when I was first introduced to dulce de leche. It was an embarrassing event of trying to pronounce it correctly and then trying to figure out what exactly I was eating. By the looks of it I was guessing peanut butter or caramel. I licked the jar clean and decided that it was even better than either of those.
Actually, dulce de leche is a sweetened milk-based caramel used as a sauce, spread, or an ingredient in certain recipes. When I researched how to make it at home, I found a few methods, one of which I’ll definitely avoid…the stove-top. Some home cooks will boil an unopened can of sweetened-condensed milk for a few hours on the stove-top until caramelized. Other home cooks stay away from this process because of the risk that the can could explode if the water boiled dry. I’m a very forgetful person, so my chances of this happening to me are very high, which is why I was happy to dodge this route and find a much safer way to do it.
David Lebovitz came up with my preferred method of making dulce de leche at home, which includes baking the sweetened condensed milk slowly in the oven. Although it’s slowly baked, the time to prepare it is not nearly as long as the stove-top method, which is another desirable trait in a recipe for me.
The sweetened milk turns thick and caramelized, and delectable enough for me to spoon up every bite right after it’s ready to be consumed. It’s hard to save enough for a recipe (one delicious dulce de leche cookie recipe is soon to come). Use it for a morning breakfast spread on one of your pastries, or in a chocolate brownie recipe to add a bit of caramel chew. Whatever you decide I think you, too, will find it hard to save enough without eating it all on your own.
Dulce de Leche
Yield: 14 ounces
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
pinch of sea salt
Adjust the oven rack to the lowest third position. Place a shallow rimmed baking sheet on the oven rack. Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
Pour the can of sweetened milk into a glass pie plate and stir in a pinch of salt. Cover tightly with foil. Place the pie plate on the baking sheet, then pour hot water into the baking sheet, around the pie plate, so the water fills up to about halfway up the sides of the plate. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the caramel is a deep golden brown. Add more water to the baking pan as necessary.
Remove the pie plate from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. Once cool, whisk until smooth. Store in the fridge, in an air-tight container, until ready to use. When ready to serve, warm gently in the microwave.
Source: Adapted from David Lebovitz