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Recipe File: Dulce de Leche
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Cooking For Engineers



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 24, 2008 9:11 am    Post subject: Recipe File: Dulce de Leche Reply with quote

Dulce de leche is a traditional South American candy that is very similar to caramel. Like caramel, it can also be prepared as a sauce simply by cooking it a little less. The "classic" recipe for dulce de leche is to boil a can of sweetened condensed milk for hours until the contents form a dark brown, thick fluid. I think this takes too long, so let me share with you the fastest way I know how to make dulce de leche.

Dulce de leche (pronounced DOOL-say day LAY-chay) is Spanish for "milk candy" (word for word it is candy of milk). It tastes quite like caramel but with the additional taste of cooked milk. (Technically, dulce de leche is a type of caramel.) It's often used in liquid form as a sauce for ice cream, cakes, cookies, just about anything that needs a sweet topping. In solid form, it is most often eaten as a tasty candy.

The recipe most often passed around for preparing dulce de leche at home is to simply boil a can of sweetened condensed milk for three to four hours. This recipe does work, but a few details (and precautions) should be added.
  • The label on the can should be removed if it is made of paper so it doesn't fall apart in the pot of water over the hours of cooking time.
  • The can should have a couple holes popped into the top (using a can opener). This is important as it helps prevent the can from exploding.
  • The can should be placed in a small pot and water added until it is near (1/4 in. or about 1 cm) the top of the can.
  • The water should be brought to a simmer (not boiling) and held there for three hours (for thick runny dulce de leche) or four hours (for solid dulce de leche). Water will need to be added over time as it cooks off.
  • Remove the can with tongs and allow to cool before opening.
  • Cooked in the can, the dulce de leche will have different consistencies - liquidy on top, dark and crusty on the bottom. Stir together in a bowl until it is uniform.
This is a really simple recipe involving very little interaction on the part of the cook. The downside of the recipe is that it takes about four hours for solid dulce de leche. Here's my recipe for making dulce de leche fast (potentially less than 15 minutes).

This recipe also uses sweetened condensed milk as a starting point. Here's a 14 ounce (396 g) can. I'll discuss how to make your own sweetened condensed milk (if it's not available in your area) in a later article. Remember sweetened condensed milk (Ingredients: milk, sugar) not evaporated milk (Ingredients: evaporated milk).


Just pour the sweetened condensed milk into a large microwavable bowl. The bowl shown here isn't quite large enough (see what happens), so get a big microwavable bowl. (It is possible to do this recipe with a bowl this size, but I wouldn't recommend it on your first try or on a microwave oven where you haven't used this technique before.)


Stick the bowl with the sweetened condensed milk into the microwave oven and cook it on medium for two minutes. Take the bowl out of the oven. Be careful - the milk heats up pretty fast so the bowl could be hot.


Using a wire whisk, stir the sweetened condensed milk and put it back into the microwave oven to heat for another 2 minutes on medium.


It's important to keep a watch on the bowl as it cooks in the microwave oven. If heated continuously (for example, on high), the milk will begin to bubble and the viscous liquid will trap the bubbles to form a heavy foam that sticks like hot napalm. That's one of the reasons why we run the microwave on medium instead of high. A microwave oven generally has only two modes - on and off. High means the microwave is continuously on, but a medium setting will cycle of microwave oven on and off every few seconds. The off periods help prevent boil over. If the bowl boils over, clean up the mess, upgrade to a larger bowl and continue.


Here I've moved to a 2.5 quart (2.5 L) borosilicate glass bowl and took a picture right after about 40 seconds of high power to show the foaming. The foam subsided rapidly, but you can imagine how high it was domed.


Every two minutes, pull out the bowl and whisk until smooth. Then heat again. At some point (around 10-12 minutes into the heating depending on the strength of your microwave oven), the milk will look like it has curdled.


At this point the dulce de leche is ready, but not yet at the candy stage. Don't worry about the appearance, it'll smooth out when we whisk it.


If you're going to use it as a sauce, whisk until smooth and stop here - you're done.


Continuing to cook the mixture will result in an even more curdled appearance. When you whisk it, the dulce de leche will pull away from the bowl as you stir it.


Whisk until smooth - it'll stick together and be difficult to remove from the whisk. While hot, it will still flow, so it's possible to knock most of it out of the whisk into the bowl.


Using a spoon, you can pick up a piece of the sticky candy. The bit that comes up with the spoon should standing up (or down depending on how you orient your spoon) and cool quickly. As it cools, you can touch it and it should be tacky but not sticky or cling to your skin (be careful since it can be quite hot). Once it cools a bit, it's probably easier to simply pull the dulce de leche of the whisk than to try to knock it off. (Remember, be careful. It can be very hot.)


That's it! Dulce de leche with only about fifteen minutes of total prep time. This candy will store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for over a month.


For something as simple as this, the tabular recipe notation doesn't really make sense, but here it is anyway.

Dulce de leche (makes about 1 cup or 200-250 mL)
14 oz. (396 g) can sweetened condensed milkpour into large microwavable bowlheat on medium for 2 min.whiskrepeat until appears curdledwhisk


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michaelnatkin



Joined: 20 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 12:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice one; I do similar things to reduce sauces but haven't tried it with caramel. Good call. One thing you might do is use a dough whisk instead of a balloon whisk so it isn't so much trouble to clean off. (http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/2008/07/danish_dough_whisk.php)
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neeki
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 6:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i agree with using a larger bowl...i once burned myself with hot caramel and the stuff actually made my skin blister up and form an indentation after the blister burst.
this sounds good. when i was a kid i used to like eating condensed milk by itself.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 7:20 am    Post subject: How would you package this? Reply with quote

would you recommend anything special if you wanted to package this as a gift? Would a clean mason jar be alright as long as it made it to a refrigerator fairly quickly?
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1635
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 9:30 am    Post subject: Re: How would you package this? Reply with quote

Anonymous wrote:
would you recommend anything special if you wanted to package this as a gift? Would a clean mason jar be alright as long as it made it to a refrigerator fairly quickly?

If you're cooking it until it's a solid candy, I'd spread it out on a sheet of parchment paper, wait until it's solid, cut it and wrap in plastic wrap or candy wrapper. If it's liquid, then you can put it in the mason jar, no problem. The issue though is if you over cooked it and it solidifies in the jar - it's going to take a long time getting the dulce de leche out of that.
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1635
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2008 9:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

michaelnatkin wrote:
One thing you might do is use a dough whisk instead of a balloon whisk so it isn't so much trouble to clean off.

Good call on the dough whisk. I should point out that cleaning the utensils and bowls afterward was really easy a five minute soak in hot water and it all dissolved. Didn't even have to scrub.
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Clara
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice post!.
At home we use a pressure cooker to boil the can and time reduces a lot, it takes 40/50 minutes.
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kayenne
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 6:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

funny that you should mention microwaving dulce de leche. i did the same when i undercooked mine in the pressure cooker. you are right on that boiling over part... gotta keep a close eye on it! same with clara, I completely submerged my unopened cans in the pressure cooker. 35 minutes for sauce and 45 minutes for something darker.
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adei
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 26, 2008 8:08 pm    Post subject: dulce de leche Reply with quote

Try eating it on a french crepe, or on bread and butter. That's how we have it in Argentina!
You can also spread it on a chocolate cake!
Enjoy!
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 27, 2008 1:43 am    Post subject: Ur doin it rong! Reply with quote

You're nuts, your method is FAR more trouble than boiling the can.

1. If you love this stuff, do several cans at once.

2. Don't pierce the cans - they will not explode.

3. Use a big pot with a close-fitting lid, and more than enough water to cover the cans (you can't do this if you pierce them).

4. Sit the cans on a little rack or a crumpled piece of foil so they are not resting on the bottom of the pot. Sitting the can directly on the bottom of the pot lets it get too hot on the bottom; that's probably why yours weren't evenly cooked. Mine are always very uniformly golden

5. Nothing terrible will happen if the water level falls below the tops of the cans. Keep the heat low and check once in a while.

6. 2-3 hours works well for me, depending on how caramel-y I want it.

7. Because the cans haven't been pierced, you can put the surplus cans of dulce de leche back in the cupboard, where they'll keep for months more.
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danhiskka
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:08 pm    Post subject: dulce de leche Reply with quote

Hello from Argentina!!! for homemade dulce de leche we use the sweetened condensed milk method if we donīt want to make a mess, if we are 100% homemade food fans (or have kids at home), we use this recipe: put on a iron or copper ( NEVER aluminum!!!) pot 8 cups of milk ( with over 3% fat) and 4 cups of white sugar ( you can also add more). You must revolve the mixture (with a wood spoon) to medium- high fire into boilling point; then strain the mixture, wash the pot and then carry again to low fire. Keep revolving constantly (or at least frequently) for two hours , if you nail the spoon in the center, it should remain vertical.
Then add, if you like, vanilla essence. The result is a soft sweet brown creme...and a sore arm!! Teasing
About the pronunciation, is: dool- ce (like decelerator) -de (like denim ) -le (like legitimise) -che (like cherokee)
Bye and Happy Holidays for all of you!!!
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2008 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You make the traditional method sound a lot more complicated than it is! When I make dulce de leche I do 4 cans at once. I don't pierce the cans and have never had an explosion, and that way they will keep in your cupboard for months, the same way the can of condensed milk would have before you did anything to it. You only have to check it and add a little water about once an hour. I've never had the problem you talk about of having it be runny on the top and crusty on the bottom, mine always comes out nice and thick and creamy. I will try your way if I ever need some dulce de leche immediately, but I've never had that problem since I keep a few extra cans around.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2008 7:01 pm    Post subject: dulce de leche Reply with quote

I learned to make dulce de leche in a pressure cooker. Peal the label off the can of sweetened condenced milk. Put it in a pressure cooker with enough water to come 2/3 up the can ( or cans ) of condenced milk. DO NOT OPEN THE CAN(S) at all. Seal on the lid and pressure cook for 50-55 minutes. Longer for darker dulce. Remove the can with tongs and cool COMPLETELY. You now have a SEALED can of dunce that will keep as long as the original can of condenced milk, just no label. The can won't explode because the pressure cooker equalizes the pressure and it all liiks the same as when you put it in except when you open the can.

I make tapioca pudding following the tapioca box recipe but I use NO sugar and put the dulce in a measuring cup and then fill with mil up to the amount called for in the recipe. It turnes out GREAT.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 24, 2008 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I worked in a restaurant, I would make several cans of dulce de leche at a time, in a huge pot. The cans were not opened. The trick to a good finished product is to keep the cans from touching the bottom of the pan--they need to be suspended in the boiling water, where the heat is even. Then they will cook evenly AND they will not explode from getting too hot! I used a wire rack in the pot then, and now at home we use one of those little steamer baskets in the pot.
Try dulce de leche between the layers of a cake and on top of cheesecake! If it is hard to spread, it can be extruded with a cookie/frosting press to get it where you want it without wrecking the cake.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 8:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you add chocolate Nesquick or other brand of kids' cocoa to the sweet condensed milk (about 4 very full tablespoons) in the beginning and wisk it well to dissolve, then proceed just the same up to the first curling point, you can make a very popular brazilian fudge candy called "brigadeiro." You just have to let it cool well at room temperature and then eat it with a spoon, or for the traditional presentation, roll it in your buttered hands into 3/4 inch balls, and cover them with granulated chocolate or even sugar. Don't put them in the refrigerator, because they become too stiff and don't taste as well. They keep perfectly well for at least 5 days.
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