Dulce de Leche
Confession time: I waste food. It’s one of my worst qualities and something I’m very ashamed to admit. I have no excuse, other than to plead with restaurants to please, please limit their portion sizes. But I do it at home too — make ridiculous amounts of something only to eat it for a few days and then grow tired of it and stop. Occasionally I’ll succeed at using something up (see: the never–ending carton of buttermilk) but most of the time, it’s just horrifying, I know. One of my New Year’s resolutions will be to stop, as a part of a broad cut to my consumption of all things.
But until then, I can start by using up all of the random things I bought during my Thanksgiving baking spree. Almond slivers? Go nicely on top of greens dressed lightly with balsamic. Ginger thins? Perfect with my daily post-work cup of tea. Sweetened condensed milk? Okay, how about dulce de leche? This caramel is traditional in most of South America, something I learned ages ago in a middle-school Spanish class and had forgotten since. I’m a tad caramel-averse, you see (with this glaring exception — I could eat salted caramel all day). But most caramels I find to be too sweet, too sticky, too much.
I had no doubt that this caramel would be the same. In fact, that’s what it’s known for: its richness. But it seemed like the simplest way to use up the condensed milk (other than my dad’s suggestion, to just eat it straight from the can with a spoon [Yes, I tried it. Yes, it was decadent]).
The recipe, from the Carnation label, was laughably easy. All you need is a can (or some quantity) of sweetened condensed milk.
1) Pour a can of sweetened condensed milk into a metal bowl.
2) Place that metal bowl over a saucepan filled with boiling water (or use a double boiler), making sure that the bowl isn’t actually touching the water.
3) Heat the condensed milk on low until it thickens turns a light golden brown, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
The sauce is everything a good dulce de leche should be: thick enough to spread, sweet with the unmistakable Christmas-ness of burnt sugar, rich, sticky. I’m not made to love it, thought it does make a nice topping for ice cream. If I’m particularly motivated this week, I may turn it into a filling for alfajores, traditional Peruvian Christmas cookies. But it at least used up the condensed milk. And if I spend the next two weeks eating ice cream topped with dulce de leche sauce — well at least it didn’t go to waste.