Once you’ve tasted a proper homemade dulce de leche, you may never go back to regular caramel sauces again. It has just too much to bring to the flavor party. And as you’ll see, it’s not difficult at all to make. Start with your baking soda:
Add about half a cup of milk and stir it together.
Now pour your cow’s milk into a broad saucepan or Dutch oven…
…followed by your goat’s milk.
Pour in the sugar…
…then add any flavoring you might like. Here I’m adding some vanilla bean, a cinnamon stick — especially Mexican canela — would also be an excellent choice.
Whisk it all together and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
When the mixture is simmering, pour in the baking soda mixture. Now, could you mix this in at the beginning if you wanted to? Sure. However I’m not a big pot-watcher, and I’ve had my pan overflow on me as the mixture has heated and the reaction grown more intense. I simply like to know what to expect, and when. As I’ve said, I’m a uptight personality.
That she blows! Stir gently until the foam subsides. Turn the heat down to medium, or whatever level you need to keep the pan at a medium boil. Give it a stir every five minutes or so, making sure there’s nothing sticking to the bottom that might burn.
After 20 minutes to half an hour you’ll notice some browning. Keep boiling another half an hour or more, stirring a bit more frequently, until the dulce de leche is a deep brown and coats the back of a spoon.
About like so:
You should have 3 cups or even a little less. The consistency will be thinner than you might expect, but most certainly lip-smacking (it will also thicken as it cools). Just try the stuff. Can you reduce it further? Yes, though the mixture will get darker and darker as it cooks. By the time it’s down to a jam-like consistency it’s darker than I like. That’s why I suggest that if you want it thicker, just add more sugar at the outset. It will be a good deal sweeter, but it will stand up on a spoon. Me, I think a thinner dulce has more versatility in the kitchen. But however you like it, when you’ve reduced it enough, let it cool, then strain it into a container.
It will last just about forever, though mine disappears within days. My daughters would drink dulce de leche if I let them.
UPDATE: Reader Miguel adds that a cornstarch slurry can be added to a finished dulce de leche to thicken it. In Mexico, he says, cornstarch is often added to a dulce de leche before it is reduced to the degree I’ve done it, in order to create a pudding. Ingenious! I’ll have to try that one of these days. (I should add that you’ll want to add the cornstarch right at the point where you want to stop the cooking, wait for the thickening to occur, then take the mixture off the heat, since extended boiling of the starch will cause the dulce to thin back out again).