Category Archives: Dulce de Leche

Making Dulce de Leche

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).

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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.

Filed under:  Dulce de Leche, Pastry Components | 7 Comments