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Discover How to Make Rich and Creamy Dulce de Leche at Home

Written by the YesChef staff

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YesChef Francis Mallmann Desktop
YesChef Francis Mallmann Desktop
Francis Mallmann
Teaches his Argentine Cuisine
Have you ever tried something that made your taste buds sing? That is the experience of tasting dulce de leche. This sweet, creamy, and richly delicious treat has been enjoyed around the world for centuries and is made in a variety of ways. In this article, we will explore the history of dulce de leche, its origins, and how to make your own authentic Argentine dulce de leche at home – including on the stovetop, in a pressure cooker, and in your oven. We will also provide cooking tips for making and serving this delight. So, grab a spoon and get ready for an exploration of dulce de leche.
Francis Mallmann
Teaches his Argentine Cuisine

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What is Dulce de Leche?

Dulce de leche is a sweet, creamy, and richly delicious treat made from slowly heating sweetened condensed milk. It can be spread on toast or served over ice cream. It can also be used as a filling for pies, cakes, cookies, and other desserts or as a topping for pancakes and waffles. It is a popular sweet in Latin America, particularly Argentina, and many other countries around the world.

Origins of Dulce de Leche

Dulce de leche is believed to have originated in Argentina, but similar versions of the treat emerged throughout Latin America, from Chile to Brazil. According to Argentine legend, dulce de leche was invented accidentally in the first half of the 19th century. As the story goes, a maid of General Manuel de Rosas was preparing desserts for her boss featuring sugar and milk when she was called away unexpectedly. When she came back to the stove, the milk had turned into a thick, sweet, gooey substance that would eventually be called dulce de leche. Since then, this delicacy has been enjoyed as a sweet treat in many forms, from cakes and cookies to ice cream and candies.

From Condensed Milk to Dulce de Leche

Dulce de leche is traditionally made by slowly heating sweetened milk and sugar. The process can take anywhere from two to five hours and requires frequent stirring to prevent burning. In the mid-1800s, the invention of canned condensed milk made the process considerably easier. By boiling down sweetened condensed milk, the cooking time for dulce de leche was greatly reduced. Today, dulce de leche is still commonly made by using sweetened condensed milk. According to this popular method, chefs simmer sweetened condensed milk on the stove for several hours until it thickens and reduces to a golden caramel.

Variations of Dulce de Leche Around the World

Dulce de leche is known by different names, depending on the country and region in which it’s made. These include arequipe in parts of Colombia, Venezuela, and Guatemala; cajeta in Mexico, where goat’s milk is used rather than cow’s milk; fanguito (Cuba) and doce de leite in Brazil. In many other places in Latin America, “dulce de leche” is also often called “manjar” or “manjar blanco.”

Francis Mallmann and Argentina's Love of Dulce de Leche

Dulce de leche is beloved in Argentina. World-renowned chef Francis Malmmann is known for his innovative use of dulce de leche. He often uses it to make desserts such as panqueques de dulce de leche (dulce de leche pancakes) and salt-crusted pears with dulce de leche.

6 Cooking Tips for Making and Serving Dulce de Leche

Here are some important tips for your homemade dulce de leche recipes, according to chef Ricki Motta, who is Francis’ culinary director. 
  1. Begin the simple process by mixing 5 grams of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) with 1 kilo of sugar and adding the solution to a bowl containing 2 liters of milk. 
  2. When making dulce de leche, it is important to stir the mixture constantly to prevent it from burning. 
  3. While mixing: Once you no longer hear the sound of the sugar grains, you know that your sugar has dissolved.
  4. While cooking your dulce de leche in a pot on the stovetop, once the sugar has dissolved, turn your heat to low and cook for about four hours without touching it. 
  5. Important: when cooking, the mixture should never boil; if the heat is too high, the dulce de leche may become too thick and burn.  
  6. Once the dulce de leche is finished, it can be served as is or used as a filling or topping. Francis uses dulce de leche often, both at his restaurants and for events; the homemade version has a soft and sauce-like consistency (unlike store-bought kinds, which are thicker and harder), making it great for all sorts of recipes.

What to Do with Dulce de Leche

Dulce de leche can be used in a variety of ways. It can be used as a filling or topping for desserts such as cookies, cakes, and apple pie. Much like a caramel sauce, it can be applied as a topping for pancakes and waffles and ice cream. It also makes a delicious pairing with flan, served alongside a dollop of whipped cream. Additionally, it can be used, much like jam, as a spread to flavor your toast, bread, or crackers. Top recipes even allow for the dish to be served as a dip with fresh fruit or to sweeten your coffee or tea. The color of dulce de leche is usually lighter than golden caramel, but it can be made darker by cooking it longer.

How to Store Dulce de Leche

Homemade dulce de leche can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. It can also be frozen for up to three months. When freezing, it is best to freeze it in small portions for easy use. To thaw, place the container in the refrigerator overnight.

Conclusion

With its smooth, sweet taste (It literally means “Milk Candy” in Spanish), dulce de leche is among the world’s tastiest and most versatile treats. This creamy, caramel-like sauce can be incorporated into a heavenly dessert, spread onto toast or pastry, and even made into candy. And because its ingredients are simple – only milk, sugar, and baking soda (which gives the recipe its distinctive brown caramelized color) are required – this very special recipe, as chefs like Francis know, deserves a spot in any serious cook’s repertoire.

Homemade Dulce de Leche

Serves: 3
|
Hands-on: 10 min
|
Total: 4 hrs

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    (5 grams)
  • 1 kilogram sugar
    (4 cups)
  • 2 liters whole milk
    (8 cups)

 

GEAR

  • Whisk
  • Bowls
  • Saucepan
  • Wooden spoon

Recipe

  • Mix the baking soda and sugar together.
  • Put the milk in a bowl.
  • Slowly add the sugar to the milk while constantly stirring.
  • Once you no longer hear the sugar grains, and the sugar dissolves, move to a pot.
  • Place the pot on the stove top.
  • Cook over medium-low heat and stir with a wooden spoon.
  • Once the sugar dissolves, turn the heat to low and cook for 4 hours without touching it.
  • Transfer the dulce de leche to a bowl and skim off any white foam off the top.
  • This homemade dulce de leche will have a more liquid consistency.
YesChef Francis Mallmann Desktop
YesChef Francis Mallmann Desktop

Francis Mallmann

Francis Mallmann, the pioneer of open-fire cooking, is South America’s most famous chef and is known for his rustic open-fire cooking style in wild and remote locations. Join the James Beard award-winning author and Chef’s Table star as he brings you on a journey into his kitchen in the Patagonian wild where he teaches you how to master the grill and his Argentine-style barbecue.

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