Monday, February 1, 2010
Dulce de leche is something I used to think of as more of a flavor – one introduced to me by Haagen Dazs ice cream. I knew there was more to it than that, but I had never had a real dulce de leche sauce. Thanks to Alton Brown that all changed this past weekend.
I was flipping channels and landed on Alton’s milk episode. Always interested in all things dairy – especially if those things have anything to do with aged, bacteria-laden dairy – I stopped and watched. While this episode had little to do with cheese, it did reveal a few secrets of tres leches cake and, the subject of this post, dulche de leche.
I couldn’t resist the simple preparation. Milk, sugar, vanilla and baking soda combined and then left to reduce. It takes a good amount of time for the milk to cook down to a rich caramel-colored sauce, but most of that time you can totally ignore it. Just let it go (aside from the occasional stir) and two to three hours later you’ll be left with a generous cup of dulche de leche that will last up to a month in the refrigerator.
With that kind of shelf life, you have plenty of time to find your favorite uses. Mine? So far I haven’t been able to beat dulce de leche drizzled over homemade cream puffs (more on that coming soon.)
I use vanilla bean paste in place of a vanilla bean. If you stick with Alton’s use of a split vanilla bean, you need to remove the bean after one hour of cooking or it will impart a bad taste.
Dulce de Leche
Adapted from Alton Brown
1 quart whole milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 T vanilla bean paste
1/2 t baking soda
Combine the milk, sugar and vanilla bean paste in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, stir in the baking soda. Reduce the heat to low to maintain a bare simmer and let the mixture cook, uncovered, for 2 1/2 – 3 hours. Stir occasionally, being careful not to reincorporate the foam that forms on top of the mixture (you will strain this off at the end). After 2 1/2 – 3 hours, when the sauce is a deep-brown and you have just a bit more than a cup left, strain through a fine mesh strainer into a clean jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to a month.