Dulce de Leche

In Argentina we are passionate about four things: Fútbol, Asado, Tango and dulce de lecheSo much so that back in 2003, Argentina attempted to declare dulce de leche (literally meaning sweet milk) their national product.

It’s ours! They insisted with great passion.

Consequently, their humble neighbor, Uruguay raised their hand with great irritation and fought to stop the UNESCO declaration of dulce de leche being strictly Argentinean.

Uruguayans claim to have been making the product for as long as Argentinians have and see it as a valuable part of their economy.

A long – and not so sweet story short – the “possessor” of dulce de leche remains undetermined.

Truth is that almost every country in Latin America has some kind of version of sweet milk. Whether it’s named Arequipe, Manjar or something else, this fantastic concoction of milk and sugar can be found in various desserts (alfajores or panaqueque de dulce de leche), cakes, tartes and ice creams around Latin America (and even Spain) and is an integral part of everyone’s culture and cuisine.

After all, a country so devoted to cattle would see this sweet milk thing as a big deal, right? Argentinean meat is famous all over the world for its quality and superb taste. And now, Argentinean “sweet milk” is famous too.

For now however, we’ll just enjoy this Argentinean version – a recipe from my husband’s family and one we make at home on a regular basis.

Passports & Pamplemousse-7

Passports & Pamplemousse-6

What you’ll need:

3 liters whole milk
1 kg refined granulated sugar
44 grams glucose syrup (Optional. Helps with the texture but isn’t necessary)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda (dissolved in 1/4 cup milk from above quantity)
60 grams butter
a real Vanilla Pod

This will reduce a little more than half (or more, depending on how dark you want it and how long you cook it for)

a stand-alone upright mixer with an induction will be your savior. We have a Kenwood Master Chef and it does all the work for us with this recipe. If you have one, this is all you will need for the majority of the process.

Traditionally, one would stand by the stove and stir – constantly. If you are doing this by hand, you will need a heavy-duty pot (you want the heat to transfer all over, and not just on the bottom of the pot). A copper kettle/pot is a great induction of the heat, if you have one. You’ll also need a sturdy wooden spatula that is flat on the bottom (you need to scrape the bottom a lot to ensure nothing is sticking/burning)

Process Step 1:
Whether you use a mixer or do this by hand:
Slice vanilla pod open and extract the beans. Add this to add a pot (leave it in for flavor, and take out at the very end) and then:
Bring vanilla, milk, sugar and glucose to a boil, in a heavy pot and add baking soda mixture once boiling.
Boil for 5 minutes while stirring constantly to ensure that the bottom is not burning.

If you have a mixer with an induction:
Transfer mixture to stand-alone upright mixing bowl (with induction option) (with side scraper mixing attachment) and add the butter.
Cook with the induction at 100 degrees Celsius while mixing constantly, until dark and thick.
The mixture should reduce by at least half, if not more. This will take a couple of hours, at the least.
Remember to take out the vanilla pod when done. The mixture will solidify a little more as it cools.

If you are doing this by hand:
After completing the Step 1 from above (“Process”) add the butter and decrease the temperature on your stove-top.
Keep stirring constantly.
Depending on your stove (electric vs gas) you want to ensure to select the correct stove-top temperature.
If there is too much heat, the mixture will bubble and boil over. If there is not enough heat, it will take an eternity. Generally speaking, cooking and stirring over medium-low heat should do the trick. The pot you use will also make a big difference, depending on how it transfers the heat. As a rule of thumb, you want to mix just under the boiling point. This may take a couple of hours. Scrape the sides here and there to make sure the sugar is dissolving and don’t forget to scrape the bottom often to make sure the mixture is not sticking.
Remember to take out the vanilla pod when done. The mixture will solidify a little more as it cools.

Dulce de Leche - Passports and Pamplemousse

Side-note: Please please please – for the love of all that is sweet and holy – do NOT boil a can of condensed milk. Yes, this is an option, but it’s not a good one – nor a safe one.
The can risks exploding. Tin Can explosion = shrapnel everywhere. No one wants that.
Also, this process can still take hours, so you may as well do it as stated above.
If you’re really passionately not excited about straining your arm muscles with constant stirring then order it online! (or invest in a mixer with an induction!) but por favor, do not go with the boil-a-can method!!

Passports & Pamplemousse-2

Dulce de Leche Passports and Pamplemousse

copyright notice: Recipe and Images are copyright of Passports & Pamplemousse. Please do not redistribute without asking first! Gracias!

8 thoughts on “Dulce de Leche

  1. Hi, I lived in Chile for 5 years and there, it’s “manjar”. Despite protests, I’ve always preferred the smoother, milkier, creamer, less sweet “dulce de leche” to the Chilean version. Thanks for your “delicious” post! I’d like some (Argentinian) Alfajores now, please. 🙂

    1. Hi Rachel, thanks for stopping by! Ha! that is the million dollar question. The problem we have is that it never lasts long enough for us to know how long it would potentially keep for 😉 if you know what I mean. After making crepes (see website for recipe) and alfajores (recipe coming) and a cake (with tons of chocolate) there’s not much left over and we just made it 3 days ago 🙂 we really really LOVE our DdL!
      It is high in sugar and I read somewhere that things which are high in sugar can grow a certain bacteria after a while. I recommend consuming it quickly just in case — which shouldn’t be a problem!

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