Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sweet From Milk

Well, it's not the Sweet Potato Cheesecake that I promised, but it is yummy none the less! And I will do the cheesecake - I have to, its a goal obsession.
Now for today's bite of life: Dulce de Leche. Litterally translated, "Sweet From Milk," dulce de leche is a creamy, sweet, almost caramel-like thick sauce that goes well with just about anything from ice cream to pretzels. Several cultures have their own version, but it seems the roots of dulce de leche are Latin in origin. I'm not debating nor supporting that - just sayin'.
Traditionally it is made by slowly simmering milk and sugar (sometimes with vanilla or other ingredients) to reduce the moisture content and create a beautiful, rich, golden sauce. As a true American, however, I'm always looking for the shortcut method.
Using sweetened condensed milk in the can takes out half of the work for you. The most common method for this is to place a can of sweetened condensed milk in a pot of simmering water for about three hours or so, adding water as necessary so the can is in a continuous water bath. Ignoring this step has led to many a can bursting into a fountain of hot, lava-like stickiness which coats everything and everyone in sight. Not pretty. And very dangerous.
After a little investigation, I discovered from another blogger (taylortakesataste) that there is a much easier, and much, much safer way to create this little Sauce from Heaven. (I should note that he also investigated and gained the idea from another site, crockpot365)
Using a slow cooker to create dulce de leche seems, to me, to be a much safer, easier method. Its really so very simple even a child could do it - which I am NOT recommending by any means.
The first step in this little venture is to remove the labels and place the cans, however many you choose to make, in the slow cooker and cover with water. I was a little nervous about placing metal cans directly on the crock, so I placed metal canning jar rings down first - I know, still metal! But it does relieve most of the contact issue of metal on crock. I don't know why it bothers me, it just does.
The beginning of the process.

After setting up the cans on the lids, fill the crock with water to just above the tops of the cans. A water bath is completely necessary - do NOT skip this step! Place the lid on top, set the cooker to "low," and let it rip for 8 hours.
Half way through cooking process - 4 hours.
You can see that half way through the process the water level is still high, typical of slow cookers. No need to do anything - just let it go (with the lid on, of course) for another 4 hours.
Cooking process complete.
Once the 8 hours has passed, remove the cans carefully with tongs onto a towel to dry and to cool to room temperature. This is very important - DO NOT attempt to open the cans when they are hot or even warm. No one needs to get injured over dulce de leche - be safe and leave them alone for a good while to cool down.
I feel I should insert here that no one, and I mean NO ONE recommends heating cans of sweetened condensed milk in any fashion what-so-ever. And I'm not telling you to, either. This is just what I do to get a desired result. All consequences are my own. :) There, disclaimer done.
Terrible photo, but - Oh Heaven!
After the whole process is complete and the cans have cooled, go ahead and grab yourself a piece of really delicious chocolate and dig into the creamy, velvety, rich goodness that is dulce de leche. Or, pour it over ice cream, put some in your coffee, add it to muffins or cake or frosting or just simply do what I like to do and stick your face in it and . . . . um, never mind. Its good. Its really, really, really good.
Hopefully this will tide you over until my promised recipe of Sweet Potato Cheesecake. Its coming - it really is! Perhaps with a topping of dulce de leche. Oh Heavens, I've created a monster!

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