Dulce de Leche at Home

Making dulce de leche at home is super easy. As a matter of fact, there are only truly three ingredients that you need. Well, four really, if you count time, which is the ingredient you need the most of for this recipe. Don’t start this project unless you have 4 or 5 hours to dedicate to it from scaling to cleaning, and cooking in between.

I’ve gone through a dulce de leche obsession and have tried every recipe that I could find for cajeta, milk jam, confiture du lait – which are all the same exact thing – a slow cooked reduction of caramelized dairy. I put it in my coffee, over ice cream, on toast or right out of the jar, it’s straight up eyes-rolling-back-into-your-head-delicious.

This recipe and technique are a bit gussied up. Along with the typical ingredients of milk, baking soda and sugar, I’ve added sticky Tahitian vanilla beans, powdered espresso, glucose syrup (to prevent crystallization) and milk chocolate. The milk chocolate is not necessary and definitely not typical, but I like it because it adds another amazing layer of flavor, a beautiful creamy texture and extra shine. It’s perfectly fine to keep a very traditional flavor profile, but it is impossible for industry folks to not tweak a recipe to make is specifically theirs. I’m no exception.

Here’s my fancy recipe:

2000g Straus milk

2000g organic goat’s milk (You can find this at a specialty grocery store, or better yet, ask around at your farmer’s market)(And if you can’t find it, just use all milk. It’s fine!)

2 each vanilla beans, split & scraped

20 each coffee beans, crushed or ground

1200g organic cane sugar

120g glucose syrup

20g baking soda

High quality milk chocolate – we use Valrhona’s Caramelia or Jivara chocolates for the best result

A fat pinch of Maldon sea salt (but please don’t crush those beautiful crystals with your sausage fingers.)

 

Here’s my basic recipe:

4000g organic milk

1200g organic sugar

20g baking soda

A nice pinch of sea salt (optional)

 

Here’s how you make it:

(For the basic recipe, follow these steps too, just omit the extra ingredients.)

First, combine your dairy, 1000g sugar, glucose, vanilla beans and espresso on a large pot. Use a pot that has at least 3-4 inches of room to the top after the dairy is inside. The pot size is important. More on that later.

Vanilla and Espresso
Vanilla and Espresso

Whisk this together to dissolve the sugars and place over medium high heat, stirring often so it does not burn on the bottom.

Combine the remaining 200g of sugar and baking soda in a bowl and mix well.

Once the dairy has come just barely to a simmer, lower the heat to the lowest setting and sloooowly begin whisking in the sugar/baking powder mixture. I say slowly, because if you go too quickly, the whole mixture will foam up like your 4th grade science fair volcano and overflow all over the place. Bad news. So take your time and once the foam starts building, slow down to let it settle, then go again until it’s all inside. The foam is normal – it’s the reaction of the baking soda and the natural acidity of the dairy, just don’t let it get out of control, or you will have a lot of cleaning to do! That’s why picking out a nice roomy pot is so very necessary. Don’t make me say “I told you so.”

When the foam has mostly settled, turn the heat back up to medium. The objective here is to bring the dairy just to a slow simmer over a period of several hours, in order to reduce the liquid and caramelize the sugars.

Keep a spoon handy and skim any remaining foam from the surface throughout the cooking time. Get rid of the whisk now, too. Too much agitation at this point will lead to crystallization. Just simmer and skim.

Simmer and skim.

Watch and be amazed as the color changes from white to tan to light brown.

Simmer and skim.

Watch the the texture thicken and the color change to a deep caramel color.

Keep simmering. Keep skimming.

Finally, after several hours, the dulce de leche will have reduced by about 75% and will have become a deep, rich, mahogany color.

At this point, if you are making the basic recipe, strain your dulce de leche and stir in your sea salt. You may now begin to slather everything in sight with this gloriousness.

If you are making the fancy recipe, also strain your dulce de leche while weighing it. Once you know the weight, scale your milk chocolate (in a medium sized bowl) to half the weight of the dulce de leche.

Slowly, while the dulce de leche is still nice and hot, begin to pour the liquid-gold over the chocolate. Mix until the chocolate is melted and combined with the dulce de leche in a smooth, shiny homogenous way.

Emulsification
Emulsification

Now, add a nice fat pinch of Maldon or Murray River sea salt and stir to combine.

You did it. Give yourself a pat on the back. Taste your dulce de leche!! So yummy!! Now do the dishes. Go clean up.

You are now ready to either start pouring this all over everything you can find, or let it crystallize overnight in the fridge to thicken and become spreadable for your toasted brioche in the morning. I’m just sayin’. That’s a pretty damn good way to start your day.

Pouring
Pouring
Dulce de Leche
Dulce de Leche

 

 

 

 

 

Ferry Market Sights 4.5.14

Beautiful Saturday market at the Ferry Building yesterday with herbs, blossoms and flowers prominently displayed at almost every stand.
Bright green snow peas are the perfect raw snack right now. I was surprised at how juicy and sweet they already are and ate a handful on my walk through the busy market. Last week’s rain left us little to no strawberries, which made way for other interesting finds, like Shetland Sheep Fleece from Tierra Vegetables in Santa Rosa.
So exciting to see what the Spring season brings to us each week!

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Channelling Valentino, Spring 2014 Menu Inspiration

Many of my cooks have witnessed it: me, mid-stride, hauling ass through the bustling kitchen with a million and one things to do on my list and stopping suddenly, as abruptly as if I’ve run into an invisible pane of glass, to pause for a moment and observe some thing that I find particularly compelling. Whether it’s a gorgeous tart shell, a perfectly folded parchment cornet, a flicker of dancing gold leaf, a well cared for knife, a mise container overflowing with blossoms, a sick quenelle or a flat of the season’s perfect produce, I excitedly declare to the nearest cooks, “See you guys, see?! Beauty is everywhere in the kitchen, inspiration is everywhere!” That’s when I tell them the story behind the thing that I’ve seen or make them hold out their hands so that we can all taste the thing together or pull everyone’s attention to the technical feat of the cook who said thing belongs to. Many times, my eyes well up with tears, and as awkward as it is for my audience, I can’t help it, for it is the truest moment of inspiration and love for our craft that I feel. Whether something has been created by our universe or by our hands, beauty and inspiration are everywhere, we just have to open our eyes.

The Perfect Cornet
The Perfect Cornet

As the launch for Quince’s Spring Menu approached, I turned to another trade for my seasonal inspiration, the craft and creativity of the high fashion industry, The runways of New York, Paris, Milan and Berlin were teeming with incredible designs to spark my inspiration. The colors, textures and compositions of the fashion universe were perfectly translatable into my world of colors, textures, compositions and best of all, taste in the pastry kitchen.

My biggest source of inspiration is Valentino’s line of Spring 2014 Couture. I am always drawn to Valentino Couture for the incredibly saturated colors and delicately detailed designs that are the trademark of this iconic house of fashion. The designers of Valentino’s 2014 Spring Couture line were inspired by Operatic musical pieces, each ensemble drawn directly from a musical work of art. One of my favorite looks is an insanely beautiful cape, made up of beautiful and colorful butterflies that was, of course, inspired by Madame Butterfly. When I saw this design, it screamed “Spring!” to me and I was quite literally inspired to design a composed dessert on our Spring menu to honor it.

Valentino Spring 2014 Butterfly Cape
Valentino Spring 2014 Butterfly Cape

When I saw this design, I immediately began to connect flavor profiles with the colors and textures of the gown and cape. Espresso immediately came to mind as a frontrunner flavor to represent the gorgeous and deeply coffee colored gown, while the brightly colored butterflies offered me the opportunity to enhance the main flavor with other complimentary supporting elements, of which I chose bright first of the season strawberries, Sicilian pistachios, citrus peel and deep mahogany caramel. I thought it necessary to pay homage to the Madame Butterfly in a literal sense with a winged garnish perched delicately atop the composition.

Espresso Strawberry Butterfly
Espresso Strawberry Butterfly

We, as Chefs, are so incredibly lucky that we have the job of creating experiences and memories based on the influence of some beautiful thing that has inspired us. So take a look at the design, architecture, craftsmanship and artistry surrounding you. It is all there for the taking. Become inspired. Life is too short not to take the time to stop and smell, and appreciate the roses. After all, that’s where the butterflies are.