Dulce de Leche


Hazelnuts and chocolate, strawberries and chocolate, coffee and chocolate. Some things just naturally go together. I recently gained a greater appreciation for another magical match made in heaven: chocolate and dulce de leche.

Dulce de leche is a rich and decadently thick sauce used in many pastries and desserts. Once you taste it, it’s probably easier to name the things it doesn’t go with!

I always thought dulce de leche was a Spanish version of caramel. Well, yes and no. Yes, in that it has a flavor similar to caramel and both sweets are made from a process called carmelization. This is when sugars in a food product, like milk, begin to turn brown when heated beginning at about 320 degrees F. No in that you achieve the end results in two totally different ways. Both recipes, though, require much patience.

In caramel, you slowly heat sugar, and then add water, milk, butter and vanilla flavor to make an assortment of goodies. For dulce de leche, you use condensed or sweetened milk. This is milk that has had almost half of its water removed and then sugar added. Personally, I find dulce de leche not to be as sweet as chewy caramel.

When you have a couple of hours where you can carefully and safely keep an eye on a boiling pot of water, you can make some of this decadent, silky sauce yourself. It is surprisingly simple, but you’ll need 2 hours for soft dulce de leche and about 3 hours for a firm sauce. Here’s a website that you can go to for instructions on how to make your own. Decorated and filled jars make wonderful gifts for friends and family with sweet teeth. Or you may want to bake a batch of some alfajores, traditional Argentine cookies that, when made properly, melt in your mouth.

As with many foods, dulce de leche evolved in other parts of the world, such as in Northern and Eastern Europe, the Philippines, and in other parts of South America. In Peru and Chile, for example, it is called manjar. Let’s hear it for convergent evolution!

Once you taste it, you’ll understand why its name means “milk honey or milk candy” in Spanish.


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