Dulce de leche

Dulce de leche. Milk jam. Confiture de lait. Manjar. Cajeta. A sauce by any of these names tastes just as sweet. Dulce de leche is a caramel-like spread made of sweetened milk, slowly cooked until it bronzes and thickens.

On our trip to South America back in February and March, we encountered dulce de leche and its close cousin manjar nearly everywhere we travelled in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.

Essentially, dulce de leche is to South America what nutella is to Europe. It flavours the ice cream, fills the alfajores and other local pastries, and tops the breakfast toast. They eat it anytime, anywhere, in anything.

Short of spooning it directly from the jar into my mouth, my favourite way to enjoy dulce de leche is alongside another South American sweet: churros. We had our first taste of this match made in heaven in Piriapolis, a beachside escape in Uruguay. Trolling the streets of the village after a morning at the beach, we stumbled upon a tiny storefront with a single churro press poised over a vat of hot oil. The friendly shopkeeper, who was seated curbside chatting with a friend when we arrived, hopped up and fried a made-to-order churro for us (and a mini churro for himself). After filling the centre with a stream of warm dulce de leche, he dusted the whole shebang with sugar. Each bite was a satisfying mélange of salty and sweet, crunchy and gushy; perfect for a snack and even better for breakfast.

I'm quite certain that with a little searching I would discover a number of great sources for dulce de leche here in Paris. But with milk in the fridge, sugar in the cupboard and some time on my hands, I set out to do what any self-respecting baker would do and made it from scratch. A sticky floor, several sponges and a few choice words later, I was the proud owner of a two-toned jar of dulce de leche. (The two tones being the result of the two-batch approach I resorted to after the first batch overflowed its pot onto the floor while I was *busy* reading Hollywood gossip across the room.)

Now I ask you, what does one do with a whole jar of dulce de leche?
Besides eat it for breakfast everyday.

Dulce de Leche

4 cups whole milk
2 cups fine white sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. I emphasize large (think stock pot) because the mixture really bubbles up. Simmer over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until the mixture thickens and turns caramel in colour (about 1 1/2 hours).

Source: Based on this recipe posted at R khooks.