Tricks for Treats: Dulce de Leche

I decided to get a head start on next week’s recipe.  We’re making dulce de leche duos.  Mmmmm.  If you’ve been living an unfulfilled sweets life, and you’ve never heard of dulce de leche, let me first say that you have been missing out!  Dulce de leche is, in the simplest terms, milk caramel; cooked sweetened milk.  This is what we are going to sandwich in between two crunchy cookies.  (Really looking forward to next week!)

But, where can you get dulce de leche?  Dorie’s recipe calls for store bought dulce.  Now, I am lucky.  I live in an area where I can easily buy a can of the pre-made stuff.  Just check down the Hispanic food aisle, and there it is.  But what if you aren’t so lucky?  How can you make it on your own?  One popular recipe calls for simmering a can on the stove top for a number of hours.  This one can have the unfortunate side effect of blowing up, however, so I don’t recommend it.

Here are some ideas:

This is the recipe that I use.  I “cook” two cans at a time so I always have some on hand.  I take two cans of sweetened condensed milk and remove the labels.  I put them in the bottom of my slow cooker and fill it with water so the cans are covered by at least 2″ of water.  I set it to low and let it cook overnight — eight to ten hours.  In the morning, I turn it off and let the cans cool in the water.  That’s it.  I open the can and there is a gorgeous creamy caramel staring out at me.

David Lebovitz has a recipe that takes only a couple of hours.  His cooks in the oven.  Alton Brown’s recipe starts with fresh ingredients – no cans involved.  This recipe uses the microwave oven to cook up a batch.

Any other favorite methods?  Did you try one of these recipes?  Can’t wait to check out everyone’s posts next week!

Thumbnail for version as of 07:43, 5 June 2007
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50 thoughts on “Tricks for Treats: Dulce de Leche

  1. I was feeling brave yesterday so I tried the “risky” method of simmering a can on the stove. After some internet research, I discovered that doing this is safe as long as you keep checking the water level is well above the cans. I didn’t leave the kitchen in that time! 3 hours later and I had gorgeous dulce de leche. :-) But next time I’m going to use the slow cookier method!

  2. I use a Rick Bayless recipe using goat milk, as I like the flavour of it. It’s really flavourful, and not just sweet. Try it, even if you don’t love goat milk–you can also go half and half with cow’s milk. I usually make it when I’m visiting my mother so I can use her slow cooker–it’s a nice thing to wake up to!

    • Mary–can you share that recipe? I don’t care for goat milk, but dulce de leche is a little sweet for me so I am interested in ways to complexify* it up.

      *(yes, I know that is not a word)

      • Sure here’s the recipe from Mexico, One Plate at a Time (Rick Bayless)
        2 quarts goat’s milk (or cow’s milk, or a mixture). Use whole milk.
        2 cups sugar
        a 2-inch piece of real cinnamon stick (the crumbly kind) (I used a piece of vanilla bean instead, cause I don’t love cinnamon)
        1/2 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

        The original recipe calls for bringing the milk, sugar and cinnamon to a simmer and then stirring in the baking soda and cooking it, stirring, for 1 hour or so over medium heat.

        I heated the milk/sugar mixture in the microwave, added the soda and then cooked it on ‘high’, uncovered for about 8-10 hours. It takes the longer time if you don’t heat it up first. It starts to brown around 7-8 hours, so keep an eye on it after that, and stir if you can. I left my first batch too long and it got kind of lumpy, so I had to strain it.
        Don’t skip the baking soda, as that’s what helps it brown.
        Makes about 3 cups.
        Enjoy!

  3. I usually do the “boil in pot on stove” (no explosions yet, knock on wood). It’s kinda nice when I’m in the middle of a recipe to slow down and have it just going while I load the dishwasher and let cupcakes cool and do a bunch of other stuff or just sit and watch tv.

    I just did the oven method, with a cinnamon stick in there to infuse. I think I need more, so I might try the slow cooker method, too! Experimentation is fun.

  4. I’m very interested in the crockpot version now. Am trying this tonight. Cooking while you’re asleep. What could be easier?

    • How’d it work, Mike? I’ve made the kind covered in simmering water on the stove before and it worked great. Just have to make sure it’s a time when you’ll be IN or near the kitchen for 3-4 hours and can keep the can covered. It worked that way for me, but I’m excited to try the slow cooker method sometime. (I found the store bought stuff this time around). Hope it worked well for you.

      • Katrina: The crockpot version was (by far) the best. I’ve never been able to get that deep medium brown color with any of the other methods (maybe it was just me)… but this was both creamy and caramel brown. I left it in about 10hrs or so… (got up late)! Fool proof, low energy and low maintenance. Thanks again Tia for the tip!

  5. I followed Alton Brown’s recipe. DELICIOUS! I don’t think my stovetop heat was high enough. It never did get really thick, but none was wasted. My DDL experience is posted on my blog.

  6. Yes, the slow cooker version is great, but I use fresh milk and sugar and leave it overnight. It reduces and browns substantially. I’d be a bit more cautious about using cans overnight. Maybe on low?

  7. I think I’ll try cooking a couple of cans in the CrockPot, too. I have a feeling that Dulce de Leche will be just as handy to have on hand as Nutella. But how well does it keep? Do I just keep any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge? How long do you think it would last?

    • As long as the can is sealed, Erin, you can keep it easily through the “sell by” date. Once it’s opened, I’d say about four weeks is my limit. Not that it lasts that long…

  8. I have mine going in the crock pot (on high, is that OK?), it’s almost done.

    BUT…my can has the pop top lid and there are water bubbles coming up from the lid. Should I be concerned? I may have to go find a sealed top can and try again. I worry some water is getting inside.

    Do I keep it in the fridge once it’s done?

  9. In England Nestle do a pre-prepared version of their condensed milk as dulce de leche. They also call it caramel. I guess they don’t do that in the States? It’s used for a cookie called Millionaire’s Shortbread which is hugely popular here so that might be why.

    • Heather: I think that’s the “store-bought” stuff everyone is referring to; it’s called “dulce de leche” here. (Please, someone, correct me if I am wrong!)

  10. I tried the David Lebovitz version today. Wow. It’s really good. I thought I didn’t like dulce de leche all that much, but the addition of salt makes a huge difference for me.

      • Rachelle–With the oven method, it did have a flan-like texture at first. I had to whisk it quite a bit to get it to smooth out and develop a creamy texture.

    • I used David Lebovitz’s method and mine was quite lumpy. I put in in my mixer with the whisk attachment and it smoothed out fine. And it’s super-yummy!

  11. Call me a procrastinator, but I just got my dulce de leche out of my crock pot and it is fantastic! Can’t wait for the cookies to come out of the oven!!!

  12. Pingback: TWD: dulce de leche duos « The Berry Bushel

  13. Pingback: TWD #20 Dulce de Leche Duos « Meg's Lovey Cakes

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