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.
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.
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.