Traverse City Record-Eagle


April 18, 2013

Different approach to dulce de leche

Back more than a decade ago, I followed a macrobiotic diet, a way of eating that is mostly vegan and focused very much on the purported energies in foods and how those energies benefit — or not — our bodies. There’s a whole lot of brown rice and beans going on there, which is why the pressure cooker is a popular tool for those following the diet.

By trapping the steam produced during cooking, pressure cookers allow you to cook beyond the boiling point of 212°, usually closer to 250°. This means foods that typically need long, slow simmers can be cooked quickly and with often surprisingly good results.

Now comes dulce de leche. This South American treat is basically caramelized sweetened milk. It’s become a popular flavor in baked goods, ice creams and other sweets. But it’s rather laborious to make.

A shortcut method that’s been around for years involves slowly simmering an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a large pot of water. This several-hour approach slowly caramelizes and thickens the contents of the can, resulting in outrageously rich dulce de leche with the consistency of peanut butter.

There also is the possibility — albeit a remote one — that the can could explode (if the pan ran dry). Still, enough people have used this method over the years (to the legal angst of the canned condensed milk companies) that most cans of condensed milk now carry warnings urging you not to do that.

But with the pressure cooker, you can more safely and more quickly get the same results. I’ve described my method below, which is ridiculously simple.

So what do you do with the dulce de leche once you’ve made it? Assuming you get beyond just eating it by the spoon, try it over ice cream, spread in a peanut butter sandwich (instead of jam), spread over cream cheese on a bagel, dip pretzels in it, spread it over a cooked plain pizza crust, then sprinkle with dried fruit and coconut... And so on.

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