Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ho! Ho! Ho! Dairy Christmas!

Dulce de leche is a Spanish version of caramel and is very popular throughout Latin America. It translates directly to, "sweet of milk". I would describe this treat as the Nutella of the Latin world. I have seen this product for sale at a number of stores, but I actually find it quite easy to make. (It actually tastes better when it's homemade!)

Begin with a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Sweetened condensed milk is basically evaporated milk with sugar added to it. It is incredibly thick and has a wonderful butterscotch colour.

Sidebar: This recipe calls for the slow heating of the condensed milk. For years, I had made dulce de leche directly in the can; a direction I know that has been followed by many Latinos. However, I have been told that heating cans in this manner can leech chemicals from the canning process into the food. This process is not advisable and therefore, I have augmented the recipe.

Proceed to transfer the sweetened condensed milk into a clean preserving jar and seal the lid tightly.

Place in the filled jar into a pot filled with water. Be sure to submerge the jar completely. Now, slowly boil the closed jar for a two hour period of time.

Note: You may need to top your pot with hot water intermittently throughout this process.

The bath is used to control the cooking temperature. The heat from the boiling water will caramelize the sugars within the sweetened condensed milk, making the liquid turn a caramel colour. You will be left with the best tasting, thick, mouth watering caramel ever!

Caution: Let the jar cool completely before opening. If you do not, the caramel will explode out, potentially causing severe burns to the skin.

Enjoy your homemade dulce de leche on:
- cakes
- muffins
- cookies
- pies
- toast
- ice cream

My absolute favourite way to savour the caramel is in the traditional dish called brevas con queso (figs with cheese).

Fig trees produce two harvests. The Spanish consider the fruit from each harvest as a separate type of fig.  The first harvest produces figs called "brevas", whereas the second produces "higos". The fruit of the first harvest is often found in a preserved form where they are submerged in a heavy syrup. This product can be found quite readily in stores catering to the Latino market.

As you can see, the brevas are completely saturated with sugar syrup, giving them a soft and tender texture.

Combine the brevas with queso fresco (fresh farmer's cheese) and your homemade dulce de leche to experience a taste that will satisfy the end of any meal.

¡Buen Provecho!

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