When I was a kid, it seemed like the entire human race loved to eat condensed milk straight out of the jar except me. I just didn’t seem to like to the taste, or even pretend to like it. It felt like there was a whole world out there of which I was not a part - like that one unpopular person in school whom no one invites to their condensed milk consuming parties.
Cut to 2012. And I discovered dulce de leche (dool say – deh – leh chay). This is a South American sweet (though different forms may be found all across the world from Mexico to India) made from condensed milk and you can say it’s a form of milk jam if you like. Its basically a rich caramel sauce that can be used as a topping for desserts, in ice creams, a filling in cakes, cookies, cupcakes, as a spread on a piece of toast or eaten by itself!
The story goes that a woman was heating a mixture of sugar and milk in an army camp. Rushing to smooth out a discord between two captains, she forgot about her stove. When she returned, she found a smooth, rich and creamy jelly like substance in her pot that we now know as dulce de leche. A fortunate mistake indeed!
I had heard so much about this form of caramel that I decided to give condensed milk another chance. When I was looking for recipes, I found ones that seemed a little dangerous to me - recipes that involved immersing a can of condensed milk in boiling water for 3 – 4 hours. Uh – huh. No way, I thought. I do not want to like condensed milk that much. But then as usual, David Lebovitz came to the rescue. His method of making this is really simple. All you need to do is empty a can of condensed milk in a large shallow dish ( I used the one I make lasagnas in). The milk needs to spread out to caramelize well. It takes about 1 ½ hours in a hot oven. And the best part is that you can add sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg or whatever you fancy to take the flavor to another level.
As of now, having gotten through the entire jar of dulce de leche, I’m quite content to call myself the queen of condensed milk.
Dulce de Leche
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Preheat the oven to 425° F (220° C).
Pour one can (400 gms/14 ounces) of sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk) into a glass pie plate or shallow baking dish. Stir in half tsp of sea salt.
Set the pie plate within a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, and add hot water until it reaches halfway up the side of the pie plate.
Cover the pie plate snugly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1¼ hours. (Check a few times during baking and add more water to the roasting pan as necessary).
Once the Dulce de Leche is nicely browned and caramelized, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool, whisk until smooth.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Warm gently in a warm water bath or microwave oven before using.