Dulce de Leche is a kind of sweet spread obtained from milk, which is very common throughout Latin America. It is prepared by slowly heating sweetened milk, which thickens due to the evaporation of water and changes flavour and colour due to caramelisation. Literally, it means “Sweet of milk” and it is very popular in Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
There is a very obvious reason why Dulce de Leche is so popular: it is addictively delicious. It works well alone, spread on bread or poured on ice cream (just some scattered ideas here..) and it is one those things like Nutella or cookie butter, in which you would keep diving a spoon until there is sadly nothing left.
Most dulce de leche recipes call for condensed sweetened milk, which I would rather avoid because for as much as I like sweet things, that is really too sweet even for me. So I was very happy to discover this recipe up of Food52, which uses regular milk and sugar. Here I changed it a bit adding cinnamon and cardamom, but otherwise the original version works well. I think the cooking time in the original recipe is underestimated, though. This works for me because I do like a lighter and less thick dulce de leche, but if you are aiming for the regular thickness be prepared to add at least one hour. The great thing about this is that it does not require almost any cooking effort (it requires you to be present in a neighbourhood of the simmering pot for some hours, so do it when you plan to stay at home for some time) and the outcome is something you will really become addicted to!
Ingredients (makes 1-1.5 cup depending on how thick you aim for) – Adapted from Food52
- 1 quart whole milk
- 1 cup sugar (I used light brown)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 vanilla bean split (I like to scrape the seeds into the milk)
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix milk, sugar, salt, scraped vanilla seeds, cinnamon and cardamom in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
Take off the heat and add the baking soda and the vanilla bean, then put the mixture back on the stove over medium-low heat, to simmer.
Let the mixture cook for 2 – 2.5 hours, stirring occasionally. Colour will change from white to light brown after 1-1.5 hours, and the mixture will start to thicken. Let it cook until it reaches your desired colour and thickness, then let it cool and store in a jar in the fridge.