I'm very embarrassed to say it has almost been a month since my last post! Actually by the time I finish writing this, it will have been a month. Sigh, what can I say, work has gotten the better of me these days! I'm still trying my best to cook whenever I can, but taking the time to post is another issue...
But anyway, before too much more time passes, I wanted to share a really neat and quick "mini-recipe" that's almost like magic. It's for making your own heavenly dulce de leche with nothing but a can of condensed milk and a pot of water! I actually learned this in the process of making a toffee apple tart (hence the apples and pie crust in the photo above) from Jamie's Dinners: The Essential Family Cookbook.
He describes the process of making "toffee" from sweetened condensed milk, and it couldn't be simpler: "Put your unopened tins of condensed milk in a high-sided pan, covered with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer constantly for about 3 hours with a lid on top. It’s very important to remember to keep checking the pan, as you don’t want it to boil dry – otherwise the tins will explode. It will give you the most amazing toffee. Put the tins to one side and allow to cool."
Ok, so I will acknowledge it is a bit time consuming ("3 hours?"). And a little bit risky, it would seem ("Exploding tins?"). But honestly, don't let that stop you, because opening that once humble can of condensed milk to find silky smooth, golden dulce de leche is really worth it. I used a large pasta pot and filled it close to the brim to prevent any explosions, and checked it every half hour or so to make sure the water level was decent. The resulting caramel was quite thick yet spreadable, but supposedly if a more pourable consistency is desired, one can shorten the simmering time accordingly.
Why does this magic reaction occur? Wikipedia states: "Much of the water in the milk evaporates and the mix thickens; the resulting dulce de leche is usually about a sixth of the volume of the milk used. The transformation that occurs in preparation is caused by a combination of two common browning reactions called caramelization and the Maillard reaction." Both reactions require sugars, which is why sweetened condensed milk is required for dulce de leche; evaporated, or non-sweetened condensed milk lacks the added sugar for the reactions to occur.