Dulce de Leche

Dulce de Leche

What is Dulce de Leche?

What was once a homey and South American treat has now gone upscale and mainstream with mutinational corporations now producing dulce de lece. It is a milk-based sauce/syrup, which originates from Latin America, especially popular in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. In Spanish it basically means “sweet milk” and is available as both a thick syrup/sauce or in the form of candy.

In France one will find a delicious spread called confiture de lait or milk jam, which is based on the similar principle of dulce de leche. Although dulce de leche’s flavor is very reminiscent of caramel, it is not anything like caramel. While caramel is made with sugar, duce de leche is prepared by heating and continuously stirring sweetened milk until it has reduced to a thick creamy texture. It is rich, complex and sweet, but not overly sweet.

Basically dulce de leche is made by simmering whole milk and sugar for several hours while continuously stirring the mixture. As the water evaporates from the milk, the mixture thickens resulting in a golden colored, creamy and rich dulche de leche. There are several methods to make dulce de leche using one or a maximum of three ingredients, what you do need is plenty of time though. The standard method of for making dulce de leche is to boil unopened cans of sweetened condense milk for a couple of hours for a thick, spreadable sauce or up to 4 hours for dark fudge. This “may well explode” method is widely available on the internet but we don’t recommend it — there are far less tricky ways to accomplish this rich caramelization. They all take very little effort but lots of time. Go ahead and make extra as dulce de leche keeps well in the refrigerator for a week or more, and can be frozen.

Please ignore those microwave recipes that promise a quick version – WHAT A MESS! Here we offer some foolproof (and safe) methods for making luscious, silky-smooth dulce de leche ready to slather onto scones or ready to use in one of our recipes.

How to Make Dulce de Leche

Oven method

2 to 4 cans (300 mL each) sweetened condensed milk (Do not use evaporated milk, though, which is the same thing but without sugar.)

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF (200ºC).
  • Bring a kettleful of water to a boil. Remove labels and tops from cans. Cover each individual can top with foil, pressing firmly about halfway down outside of can. Place in a large flat-bottomed casserole dish. Pour boiling water into dish until ½-inch (1-cm) from tops of cans, thus creating a water bath. Cover with casserole lid. Bake 2 hours, without disturbing except to check water level occasionally; add more boiling water only if level drops drastically.
  • After 2 hours, lift cans from water bath with tongs; cool on a rack with foil still in place. Then use or refrigerate up to a week or freeze.
  • Cold dulce de leche is very thick so bring to room temperature before stirring thoroughly.
  • Each can makes 1¼ cups (300 mL)

Pressure Cooker Method

2 to 4 cans (300 mL each) sweetened condensed milk (Do not use evaporated milk, though, which is the same thing but without sugar.)

  • Remove labels and tops from cans. Cover each individual can top with foil, pressing down outside of can. Place on bottom of pressure cooker. Pour water into pan until ½-inch (1-cm) from tops of cans, thus creating a water bath. Cover and secure pressure cooker lid according to manufacturer’s instructions. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  • When hissing, depress the pressure valve. Lower heat so water is simmering and a low hiss of steam is audible. Simmer 45 minutes.
  • Then remove cooker from heat and release pressure valve. Cool 10 to 20 minutes or until able to open cooker. Lift cans from water bath with tongs; cool on a rack with foil still in place. Then use or refrigerate up to a week or freeze.
  • Each can makes 1¼ cups (300 mL)

Dulce de Leche in a Saucepan

This method uses whole milk . It usually takes about 2-3 hours to make and needs constant stirring to avoid the dulce de leche burning. 2 liters whole full fat milk 500g fine granulated sugar 1 teaspoon sea salt 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (you can add replace or add to the vanilla flavor using cardamom or nutmeg)

  • In a small saucepan place all of the ingredients together and stir to incorporate.
  • On medium-low heat gently bring the mixture to a simmer. Stirring constantly, reduce the milk-sugar mixture.
  • Once the mixture is thick and golden remove from heat. The consistency should be very thick – to test take a tablespoon of the dulce de leche and turn it upside down – it should basically stick to the spoon without any of the it oozing off.
  • Do not skimp on the milk and go for the full fat stuff. Anything else and the dulce de leche just does not taste as good as it should and the consistency will also be effected.

Tasty Variations

Rum Dulce de Leche

two 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk 1/3 cup dark rum 1/4 teaspoon vanilla 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Pour condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover with foil. Put pie plate in a roasting pan and add enough hot water to pan to reach halfway up side of pie plate. Bake milk in middle of oven until thick and golden, about 1 1/2 hours. Carefully remove pie plate from pan and cool completely.
  • Add remaining ingredients to milk and whisk until smooth. Sauce may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered.

Coconut Dulce de Leche

2 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk 1 1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

  • Whisk coconut milk, sugar, and coarse salt in heavy large skillet over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
  • Increase heat to medium-high and boil until mixture is reduced to 2 1/2 cups, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
  • Transfer sauce to small jars. Cool completely, then cover sauce and chill.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 month ahead. Keep chilled.

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