Dulce de Leche Recipe

Real dulce de leche isn’t nearly as time-consuming as it’s made out to be. In fact it takes far less time than the boiled can method, and demands only intermittent attention. This recipe calls for 50% cow’s milk and 50% goat’s milk, which produces the most interesting and balanced flavor (“cajeta” is actually the word for a goat’s milk dulce de leche). All cow’s milk is a little sweet and plain by comparison, and all goat’s milk a bit too, shall we say, interesting. It goes like this:

1 quart cow’s milk
1 quart goat’s milk (look for it in health food stores)
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine half a cup or so of the milk and the baking soda in a cup and set aside. Combine all the rest of the ingredients in a broad saucepan or Dutch oven and bring to the boil over medium heat. Once the mixture is boiling, whisk in the soda mixture. It will foam up some, so be ready for that. Keep the pot at a steady boil (not a high one) for about half an hour, whisking it briefly every few minutes to prevent anything from sticking at the bottom. At that point you’ll probably notice the mixture starting to turn brown. Keep boiling for at least another half an hour, stirring more frequently, until the mixture is about as thick as heavy cream, a total of about 3 cups. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. The finished dulce de leche will have a sauce-like consistency. It will keep at room temperature for weeks and in the refrigerator for months. However I promise it will never even come close to lasting that long.

VARIATIONS: In some locales, people like to flavor their dulce de leche with vanilla bean, in others, cinnamon. I encourage either one (but not both). If you can find Mexican vanilla or cinnamon, so much the better. Add the seeds of one vanilla bean or a stick of cinnamon to the pan at the beginning of the process. Rum or even a sweet wine like Port or sherry is a very nice enhancement too. Stir any of those in at the end when the mixture has finished cooking, a couple of tablespoons will suffice.

Dulce de leche will sometimes crystallize if it’s held for an extended period. To prevent that, add two tablespoons of corn syrup early on. Lastly, many people prefer a thick, jam-like dulce de leche as opposed to a thinner one. To each their own! Add one more cup of sugar at the beginning of the process and cook down to about 3 1/2 cups.

UPDATE: Reader Dave adds:

You can get goat’s milk from any Walmart.

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7 Responses to Dulce de Leche Recipe

  1. Ayushi says:

    Hi Joe,

    Just for my knowledge, why do you add baking soda?

    • joepastry says:

      Hello Ayushi!

      I like that question. The reason is because alkaline (basic) environments help create browning pigments, which give the finished product a richer color. Similar chemistry is employed for bagels and pretzels, which are often dipped in lye before being baked.

      Thanks for the email!

      - Joe

  2. Ayushi says:

    Hey Joe!

    I finally made the Cajeta yesterday. When I tried to make it a few days back, it split when I added the salt! But yesterday’s Cajeta is fabulous! I added some peppercorns, cinnamon sticks and star anise. It’s sweet yet spicy. The star anise adds a very unique flavour. But I did want to ask, how and at what point do you add salt? Salt tends to contrast the sweetness of the caramel, without making it overly sweet.

    Thanks again,
    Ayushi

    • joepastry says:

      I’m confused. Salt? I have baking soda in the recipe, but no salt I don’t think. If you want to salt it, add it at the very end once the cooking is complete and the mixture has cooled. Glad it worked for you in the end!

      - Joe

  3. Pingback: Cajeta and Tres Leches Cake « oxfood

  4. Louise says:

    Hello. I was wondering what do they put in to prevent it from going hard if you put it into icecream.

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Louise!

      Ice cream manufacturers often use vegetable oil to cut down the rigidity of inclusions like chocolate, since oil remains quite soft at freezer temperatures. In the case of chocolate, the cocoa butter is almost entirely replaced by vegetable oil. I imagine some similar strategy is used for caramel, though I confess I’m not completely certain of it.

      Good question!

      - JIm

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