Dulce De Leche, pronounced ‘dool-say day lay-chay’, is Spanish for ‘milk candy’. It is a confection made, largely, out of just two ingredients: milk and sugar. More simply put, it is nothing but cooked sweetened milk. It involves the cooking of milk that has been sweetened, till it thickens and changes colour and acquires a caramel-like taste. This gooey but delicious sweet can be had by itself, as a dessert, or can be used in making several other desserts like cupcakes and brownies.
Quite popular in Europe and many other parts of the Western world, the origins of dulce de leche are unclear. One legend says that it was the maid at the home of one Juan Manuel de Rosas who accidentally discovered dulce de leche, in the 19th century. Apparently, she was making le lechada – a drink made using milk and sugar – for her Argentinian master and his family. There was a knock at the door, she went to answer it, forgetting all about the milk and sugar cooking on the stove. When she returned to the kitchen, she found that the milk and sugar had cooked to a brown, jam-like substance, which later came to be called ‘Dulce de Leche’. Interesting, right? Another legend credits a cook in Napoleon’s army with the discovery of this sweet dish. Some time in the 14th century, this cook was making sweetened milk for breakfast for the general’s troops, forgot all about it, and ended up with a gooey confection that came to be known as ‘Dulce de Leche’. Whatever be its origin, there is no doubt about the fact that dulce de leche is immensely flavourful. 🙂
There are as many different methods to make dulce de leche as there legends about its origin. Some recipes call for simmering milk and sugar on a stovetop till it thickens and changes colour. Some others call for the addition of vanilla and other flavour-enhancers. Some people make it with condensed milk – cooking an unopened can of condensed milk, submerged in water, in a pan for a certain length of time. There is a faster and easier method too, one that involves cooking an unopened can of condensed milk in a pressure cooker, after submerging it in loads of water.
I have been reading up on the making of sweet dishes using Milkmaid, and that is how I came to know about dulce de leche. I was hesitant to try it out because I was not sure I would like the taste, considering I am not a big fan of caramel. Also, the pressure cooker method sounded too dangerous to try at home, and I do not have the patience that is needed for the other versions of dulce de leche. Yesterday, though, on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, something sparked inside me and I decided to give the making of the dish a try – I guess I had found dulce de leche interesting-sounding and it had been in the back of my mind all along, just waiting for the right moment to wiggle itself into action. 🙂 I used the pressure cooker method with a lot of caution (‘You did WHAT?!, asked the OH in surprise when I told him I was pressure cooking a can of condensed milk that had not been opened at all). The tin cooked and cooled to the tune of constant admonitions by the OH to ‘Be very, very careful, okay?’.
I opened the tin, and discovered a world of flavour, a sinfully rich and delicious concoction which I admonished myself on not trying out earlier. I am sure Ganesha would have been happy with the scoop of dulce de leche that I offered up to Him as naivedhyam, before tasting it. 🙂
I used this recipe to make the dulce de leche, and made no changes of my own. I reproduce the recipe here because I want to jot down notes on how I went about making it.
1 400-gram can of sweetened condensed milk (I used Nestle)
- Fill a 5-liter pressure cooker halfway through with water.
- Submerge the can of condensed milk in the water, unopened.
- Put the pressure cooker on the gas, on a high flame. Once the water starts boiling, close the cooker lid and turn the flame to medium. Put the cooker whistle on.
- Allow one whistle on medium flame. Then, turn the flame to low.
- Keeping the cooker whistle on, let the can cook on low flame for about 20 minutes. The more you cook the condensed milk, the thicker and more caramel-ly will be the end result that you will get. 20 minutes of cooking gave me the perfect dulce de leche and I am so not going to vary this in future attempts! Do keep checking on the cooker to ensure that you hear the sound of the water rushing inside – the drying out of the water completely could be dangerous.
- After 20 minutes switch off the gas. Let the pressure come down entirely.
- Open the pressure cooker and take out the can of condensed milk. Wait till it cools down completely, to open it. Do not attempt to open the can before it has cooled down – it could prove to be dangerous.
- Dig in and eat your fill straight out of the can. If you do not plan on using the dulce de leche immediately, refrigerate it in an air-tight jar. This will increase its shelf life. Post refrigeration, whenever you want to use the dulce de leche, leave it at room temperature for about an hour, which will make it softer.
Why don’t you try making it at home, too?