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2006-12-26

>milk caramel and dulce de leche

You can overthink dulce de leche.

Like any other sweet treats, it can be presented in many different ways, and there are differences in the quality of ingredients used, but I don't understand the perceived mystery behind this rather mundane caramel.

Of course, it is tastier than plain caramel since the amino acids in milk cause Maillard reactions and result in more complex flavors.

Insistence on having to cook a can of sweet condensed milk unopened, for instance. What the? For convenience? If it is excitement you are after, I suggest you get it somewhere else.

Let's say you are craving dulce de leche right now, and you happen to have a can of sweet condensed milk. You can make it in a few minutes.

1) Use a cast iron frying pan.
2) Mix about half a cup of water with half a can (7 oz) of condensed milk.
3) Stir as you cook this mixture, and control the heat so it doesn't bubble over.
4) When it turns tan or brown, turn the heat off a little before it reaches your desired shade of color.

Water initially prevents the mixture from burning and gives the flavor a chance to develop. Caramelization generates extra heat, so it is important to turn the heat off before you think it's done. Milk is remarkably stable when heated to high temperatures, so you don't have to worry about much at all, except not to burn the whole thing.

When done, spoon it into a little pyrex cup or a ramekin. If it cools and hardens, you can microwave it for about 10 seconds to soften it.

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