We’ve just come back from Brazil, and, while we were in Paraty, just south of Rio, we stayed at the Pousada do Ouro – so named because Paraty is at the end of the Gold Trail down which the mined gold was brought to the coast.
All the buildings in the protected old town are Portuguese colonial in style and the Pousada do Ouro is no exception. It’s a glorious place, and the house-made yoghurt on offer at breakfast was also glorious. Saucy Dressings’ Chief Taster, who has lived eight years in Greece and knows a thing of two about yoghurt, declared it the best he’d ever tasted.
There was a selection of things to eat with it. There were a couple of run of the mill conserves, there was an intriguing sweet guava jam…
…..and then there was doce de leite. Of everything there (there was no honey – that could have been a tough choice) the doce de leite was the best. It had a sort of burnt caramel taste. Naturally enough I had to investigate.
History of dulce de leche
I found it most likely originated in Latin America in neighbouring Chile (initially coming from the north west Iberian peninsula), and it then went on to Argentina, where it goes under the Spanish dulce de leche, and it’s now known worldwide by this name. It was made with goats’ milk rather than cows’ milk – Jamie Oliver makes his with half and half even today.
The in-the-tin cooking method
Better still, I learnt that it is dead simple to make, even in Blighty. Basically, it’s heated condensed milk, and the caramelly taste comes from a mix of the same Maillard reaction that you get when you sear meat or bake a crusty loaf, and literally caramelisation – the pyrolysis of the sugar in the milk as it is heated.
If the milk is heated in a tin, as described in the method below, evaporation cannot occur, and the result will be thicker, sweeter, creamier and smoother. In any case it’s a bit of a no brainer since the alternative is to stand over a hot stove stirring constantly for several hours.
And of course, you can just buy it!
But short of time? You can even buy it relatively easily (Merchant Gourmet make it, but if you’re buying wholesale Centaur make a fabulous one) ready-made.
Recipe for making dulce de leche
- Take a tin of condensed milk, take off the label but DO NOT OPEN IT. Put it, unopened, on its side (right way up and it clangs about alarmingly) into a large, deep casserole and cover it well with water. The water level should be about 6 cm – a couple of inches – above the top level of the tin.
- Bring to the boil, and simmer it for a couple of hours. It’s best to do this in the oven rather than the hob, but in any case DO NOT ALLOW IT TO BOIL BELOW THE HEIGHT OF THE TIN or it will EXPLODE!!!! Agas are ideal for this, except that it’s very easy to forget the tin is bubbling away in there.
- Go back every half hour or so to check the water level is still comfortably covering the tin
- Take it out of the oven or off the hob, and leave to cool. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO OPEN IT WHILE IT IS STILL HOT.
- Once cold open the tin, and empty into a bowl. Mix in a few sea salt flakes, and stir to smooth.
- Store in sterilised jars. (Go here for how to sterilise).
Eight ideas for what to do with dulce de leche
- Well, assuming you are not régime-restricted, have it for breakfast with home-made yoghurt as in Brazil.
- Or go for the French version (they call it confiture de lait) which is to serve with fromage blanc
- You can use it to make a banoffee pie
- Serve with ice cream
- Or try an over the top hybrid of the two – bananas, ice cream, chopped candied nuts, rum, raisins…. and dulce de leche
- Use it to make biscuits, or as a filling between two biscuits
- You can also use it as a cake filling
- Make a mind boggling sundae by mixing with whipped cream and thin slices of dark chocolate, and serving with salted caramel ice cream and churros