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What is Dulce de Leche and How do I Make it?

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Dulce de Leche

I'm sure there are plenty of novice chefs out there, and some more experienced ones too, who have never heard of this wonderful caramel confection that's being used more and more in the preparation of desserts. To put it simply, Dulce de Leche is a milk caramel. There are 2 main ways to prepare it at home.

The 1st is for those who have access to real organic milk and have the time to stir the milk and sugar mixture frequently. The recipe is a simple one but requires time and attentiveness. What's important is the method.

The ingredients you'll need are: 4 cups milk, 4/5 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp baking soda dissolved in 2 tsp water.

You can add flavors of your choice, such as cinnamon and vanilla. Some people even add a little sea salt to have the sweet caramel aftertaste stand out a little better after the first hint of saltiness.

The preparation method of Dulce de Leche is as follows: Pour the sugar and flavors in the milk, put them on the stove, heat from moderate to high temperature. Stir until dissolved and wait for the milk to come to a boil, then remove briefly from the stove and add the baking soda that's been dissolved in the water.

Here's the point where I'd recommend you use a deeper pot, since the milk will bubble. Stir it, then put it back on the stove. It needs to boil on high heat for 1 hour, while stirring every 10 min.

After 1 hour, lower the heat and boil another 20-30 min. During the 1st 10-15 min., stir the mixture every 5 min., then toward the end begin to stir constantly, until the mixture thickens.

Dulce de Leche Cream

If you've used cinnamon sticks or vanilla pods, after you remove it from the stove, strain it into a jar or into whatever you plan to store it (if not consuming right away), while it's still runnier. Once it cools it will thicken even more. You can store it up to about a month in the fridge.

The 2nd option for making Dulce de Leche is quite a bit easier. Buy cans of condensed milk and boil them, in the cans, in a large pot of water.

Boil for about 2-3 hours (at least 2) and always check to make sure that the water is covering the cans. If it evaporates, pour in hot water. Once done boiling, take the cans out of the water and leave them to cool. They are ready for opening and consumption.

The good thing about this method is that the shelf life of the milk caramel is very long until you actually open the can. After opening it can stay in the fridge for about a month.

And of course the easiest option to enjoy this treat is to get it from the store. It most likely won't be as unique and tasty as the homemade version, which you can alter based on your own taste preferences but it's still a good alternative.