HOMEMADE DULCE DE LECHE
I will begin my new blog with the most emblematic and delicious caramel from my land. I created a good blend between different recipes to prepare Dulce de leche, and got this one. Which made almost every argentine cry. Not only because of its creamy texture, but because of the memories that only this jam can bring us back from our childhood, our grannies, and the smell of milk and sugar boiling.
At home we didn´t use to make dulce de leche, but I do remember some trips to the countryside , where we ate some homemade dulces de leche that one would kill for.
We used to eat the dulce purchased at the supermarket: it is very cheap and extremely easy to get. You can find dulce de leche in almost every shop in Argentina. But when I remember the feeling of trying a homemade one, I find it is always more delicious than the commercial.
For those who do not know what I’m talking about, the dulce de leche is the result of milk, sugar and vanilla pod, boiled for hours. In Latin America, especially in Uruguay and Argentina , it is known as Dulce de leche . It’s pretty similar to the french confiture de lait, the mexican cajeta, the chilean manjar, and has different names throughout the whole world.
We argentinians are addicts, we use it on cakes , toasts , sandwiches, cookies , chocolates , ice cream, or just eat it by the spoonful after an abstinence.
The origin of this delight is untraceable. Some say that in 1820 th, our former president Juan Manuel de Rosas´s maid, was preparing the daily afternoon beverage, which consisted of hot milk and sugar. The maid neglected the kitchen for a few hours and when her master came and asked her to bring the milk to drink with mate (typical argentinean infusion) she returned to the kitchen and found that the milk had turned into a delicious sort of caramel. The story does not sound totally believable, but it’s a nice symbol. I cannot imagine that the milk and sugar became dulce de leche so easily, and without stirring it every few minutes !
Dulce de leche unites and divides us. Like all the cultural symbols of the neighboring countries that once were one. Today we are fighting with Uruguay for the authorship of dulce de leche, the asado and tango. So much, that these topics are being discussed in the highest levels of UNESCO.
The main thing is that we share it among the common people. And I love them all: Argentinian, Uruguayan, Chilean and all the many nationalities that the boiled milk and sugar can acquire.
Living thousands of miles away from the lands where dulce de leche is abundant, I had no other option than to specialize in the argentinian art of sweetening the milk.
And here a few grandmother´s tricks:
*The milk is the main ingredient. Nowadays the one we use is very different to the fresh milk that our grandmother used. Digging a little bit in various recipes, I decided to return the missing ingredient to the milk: cream. You can´t even imagine how this secret changes the result.
* Adding 1 liter of water, will make it MUCH better. Because it will take longer to caramelize.
* Keeping a small empty plate in the freezer (later on I will explain why)
Dulce de Leche
* 3 liters of milk
* 1 liter of water
*1 jar cream (200 ml)
* 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
* 4 ½ cups sugar
*1 tsp of sodium bicarbonate dissolved in ¼ cup of water
* 5-10 marbles!!!! ( optional)
*1 wooden spatula
In a wide, nonstick casserole-type pan, place 3 liters of milk, 1 liter of water, the cream, the vanilla bean, the sugar, the baking soda, and the marbles. Simmer the mixture not forgetting to stir. Be sure all the sugar is dissolved in the milk.
When the milk starts boiling, reduce the heat and stir from time to time to avoid lumps.
Since the moment the milk boiled until it is finished, it may take 4 or 5 hours.
The stirring and the marbles (I was not crazy when I requested them) will avoid the sticking.
Every now and then check your mixture.
When a golden color begins to appear, you will feel proud of your effort.
Meanwhile sterilize the jars you will use by boiling them in hot water for several minutes.
As I told you in the secret number three, you should have placed a small empty plate in the freezer. Why? Because that will make a faster cooling of the mixture and you will be able to check ifs ready, without waiting for the ambient cooling.
If you think that the jam is getting closer to its final texture (remember that when its hot, its alway more fluid) place a spoonfull on your cold plate, let it chill and check the texture.
The time of cooling is essential. You need to make a cold water bath. Place the pan in a bowl with cold water and ice and do NOT stop stirring or your jam will turn sandy. Cool it until you see that is has turned thicker.
Transfer it carefully into the sterilized jars and close the lid. Keep it in the fridge (up to six months)
When open best before two weeks.