It Could Not Be Easier To Boil Your Own Dulce De Leche

Dulce de leche, often dubbed "milk candy" or "caramel spread," is a luscious, sweet confection made from slowly boiling condensed milk until it transforms into a thick, creamy, caramel-like substance. The name itself, translating to "sweet milk," perfectly describes the essence of this indulgent treat that's very popular in Latin America, especially its origin country of Argentina, where it is a very popular flavor in sandwich cookies called alfajores.

Unlike caramel, which requires a lot of skills to prevent burning and diligence while working with dangerously hot melted sugar, it's remarkably simple to make dulce de leche at home. All you need is a large pot, water, and cans of sweetened condensed milk (the same ingredient you can use to make key lime pie). With some practical tips, anyone can make this creamy treat for all sorts of applications. Whether enjoyed on its own or as an ingredient in various desserts, this creamy caramel treat is sure to become a household favorite.

Making dulce de leche is quick and easy

Making dulce de leche is so simple it does not require a traditional recipe, all it really takes is boiling the cans of sweetened condensed milk for a few hours and letting the caramelization process, also known as the Maillard reaction, take over. 

After removing any labels from the aluminum can, there is an important tip to make sure dulce de leche comes out correctly, which is to make sure the cans are fully submerged in the boiling water and add more water if the level drops. This is because you want to make sure the can is evenly heated on all sides, since uneven heating will cause the milk to burn inside the can, leaving your dulce de leche with a lumpy or grainy texture. Worse, exposed cans can explode due to uncontrolled expansion of the dulce de leche (since the water acts like a pressure cooker), causing potential injury and making a mess. 

If the water level is maintained properly, the sealed environment inside the can allows the condensed milk to undergo a slow and controlled caramelization. Over the course of hours, the sugars in the milk will begin to break down and turn into a rich, golden brown. Once removed from the boiling water, leave the cans to cool before you open them to scoop out the caramel-y brown sauce to use for plenty of baking and dessert applications.

Using dulce de leche like a pro

Now that you've made some delicious dulce de leche, what can you do with it? Slather it generously on toast, pancakes, waffles, or crepes for a breakfast treat or make an easy-to-assemble dessert. Alternatively, you can sandwich it between two round shortbread cookies before enrobing the entire thing in dark chocolate for a homemade version of the Argentine favorite alfajores.

You can also incorporate it into batter for cakes, brownies, blondies, and cheesecakes for streaks of caramelized sweetness, or incorporate it into a mousse. You can also use a slightly warmed dulce de leche as a topping for frozen treats such as ice cream and frozen yogurt. Finally, it makes for a thoughtful homemade gift when packaged in decorated airtight jars. When sealed, dulce de leche can last up to three months in room temperature while sealed, and up to two weeks in the fridge after opening.