Dulce de Leche, Doce de Leite... Not Caramel

Dulce de Leche
Let’s make one thing clear: Dulce de Leche is not caramel. Caramel is made of sugar and water, Dulce de Leche or Doce de Leite, how we say in Portuguese, is condensed milk and sugar.

Dulce de Leche is a South American very dear thing and should be treated with respect.   We have it as Alfajores filling, with pão-de-ló (our version of sponge cake), filling honey cakes, with media luna (croissant), churros and specially in Brazil with a light ricotta like cheese: Minas – the perfect pair for our Doce de Leche (from now on I will be calling it, Doce de Leite).

Minas Gerais, the place my family lives in Brazil, is famous for its cheese and Doce de Leite and I learned how to make it with my great auntie Iranete, when I was just a kid.   In my region it is a very light brown sweet and sometimes we add coconut to it.

For making a darker Doce de Leite like in the photo you have to burn some of the sugar before adding the
milk but if you are making it for the first time I advise you to try the light colored version.

In Minas the sweet is made in large copper pans called “Tachos”. The raw milk and sugar are gently stirred together for hours until getting its paste consistence. You can make a “cheaters” Doce de Leite by cooking a condensed milk in a pressure pan for about 40 min (if you do so, careful to let it cool down before opening it) but frankly nowadays you can buy the condensed already cooked in the supermarked that for my despair is also wrongly called Caramel – it’s just not the same.

Dulce de Leche
Stirring the milk for hours though is for strong patient arms and that’s why I abandoned the recipe for a long long time until one of these days I learned a little “trick” that reduce the stirring time for 20 min.

The trick is to put a saucer upside down in the bottom of the pot, that will prevent the milk to spill and you can let the heat perform it’s magic.

It still will be good one hour and a half cooking but really worth’s the waiting!

The recipe will yield two medium jars of about 300ml of sweet – To prevent contamination and lengthen the shelf life of your Doce de Leite, it's important to sterilise the jars.  I do boil them for 15 min and leave it to dry upside down on a very clean tea towel.

You must have all ingredients in your pantry right now so what are you waiting for? Let’s stop chatting and make some Doce de Leite! :-)

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Dulce de Leche / Doce de Leite
Yields: about two 300ml jars   Cost:$ | Difficulty:  Easy | Time:  2h
Author: a classic by Rachel Elich
Ingredients
  • 2l Full Cream Milk
  • 500g Sugar
Instructions
Dulce de LecheFor a Dark caramel color sweet:
  1. Heat the 100g of the sugar in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.
  2. Don’t stir until the sugar start to melt and caramelize. NEVER leave caramel alone, it burns very fast!
  3. Once it has a rich caramel color, add the milk, reduce the heat and stir until all dissolved.
  4. Follow the recipe for light sweet from number1.
For a light color and not less tasty sweet
  1. Put the milk in a heavy bottomed pot with a heat resistant porcelain saucer turned upside down in the bottom of the pot.
  2. Let the milk cook over medium heat for about 1 and ½ hour or until the milk has been reduced to ½ Litre
  3. Carefull remove the saucer from the bottom of the pan using a long spoon
  4. Stir in the Sugar (or the rest of the sugar if you are making it dark)
  5. With a wood spoon stir the pot constantly for about 20 minutes until it turns into a paste. 
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Now that you know how to make Doce de Leite with a South American, try it the way we do...

With Minas Cheese....                                                    With Honey Cake....

















Rachel Elich

Rachel Elich is a globetrotting, computer engineer, project manager, designer, untamed cook extraordinaire who backpacks around the world. Along the way on adventures, Rachel has adopted and incorporated international influences into all aspects of her creative work endeavours.

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