Ever since I was little, my dad would tell me about the caramel cakes my grandmother (Edith) would make for him. He spun yarns about Edith boiling cans of sweetened condensed milk until it turned into caramel and spreading it on a cake. I was never a big fan of caramel cakes, so I never tried it, but when I got into making caramel not too long ago (see my samoa recipe), I became interested (in making his caramel, I mean, not the cake). Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of dulce de leche either, but I was looking for a process for making caramel that wasn’t very labor intensive. (I hope you don’t think just because I make things that I don’t like, it’s not a tasty recipe worth trying. The recipes usually are, unless noted otherwise. I’m just a pretty picky eater for a baker/foodie. Is that irony, or an oxymoron?) Anyway, I while researching different caramel making techniques, I noticed that the words “caramel” and “dulce de leche” seemed interchangeable. This didn’t make sense to me. I thought they were two different things, so now it was time to look up the definition of caramel and dulce de leche.
Definitions according to Oxford
Sugar or syrup heated until it turns brown, used as a flavoring or coloring for food or drink.
dul·ce de le·che
noun /ˈdo͞olsā de ˈleCHā/
A traditional Argentinian dessert made by caramelizing sugar in milk.
So Edith has been making dulce de leche all this time (right?). Better go get the can of sweetened condensed milk!
Dulce de Leche
- 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
- medium saucepan
Remove the label from the can and place the can in the pot. Fill the pot with water almost to the top of the can (leave about 1/4 inch at the top). Bring the water to a gentle boil and continue to boil for 3 hrs. Add more water to the pot as the water begins to evaporate. After 3 hrs, let the can cool completely before opening.
A few notes: Some people like to poke holes in the can because they think it’s going to explode. It will not explode (use you’re best judgement). Also, I think that if you poke holes in the can, eventually, some of the leche is going to ooze out making a watery mess. This is my opinion only, not proven. Once it’s cooled, I like to add salt, because I’m really into salted things right now, so that’s another option.
This is what leche looks like when it’s cooled to room temperature.
Here’s a can that I made and left sitting in the fridge for a couple days before opening.