Friday, January 29, 2010

Dulce de Leche

I've been weighing my desire for homemade dulce de leche vs. a face full of hot sugar and tin can shrapnel. Of course I'm talking about the boil inside the sealed can method, which done wrong (or right) can create a hot sticky bomb in your kitchen. Several brands of sweetened condensed milk specifically warn against doing this.

Of course, I'm thinking: dangerous caramel... yummm.

I was still waffling a bit though, until I saw kitchen koala's approach using a crockpot! It looked so easy that I had to give it a try. No worrying about the water level dropping, no stirring, just turn it on and walk away... far away... just in case.

This method is probably safer than boiling in the can in a pot of water. However, given the way my cans were bulging slightly after six hours I'm going to guess that there is still a small chance of an explosion. So, cook at your own risk.

I had a ton of left over Eagle condensed milk from holiday pie making and Kitchen Koala gave me the perfect use for it. So, I peeled the labels off my cans, placed a piece of foil into my crock pot and placed the cans inside.

Make sure your cans are in good condition, no dents or other imperfections, particularly near the rim. These cans will be under pressure so you don't want to take chances with weak spots.

I filled the crock pot to the lip with warm water, covering the cans completely. Put the lid on and set it on low for 8 hours.

At the end of 8 hours I ladled away most of the water from my pot and then picked up the cans with silicon pot holders. They're still under pressure at this point, so dropping them is a really, really bad idea. So make sure you've got a good grip on the cans before removing them from the pot.

Let the cans cool completely before opening. Until cool, the contents will be under pressure and cracking them open too early is inviting a hot molten caramel bath.

I let mine cool on the counter over night and this is what was waiting for me in the morning...

Oh so good. The irresistible flavor of sugar and danger.

Enjoy, risk takers.


  1. =(

    I would sadly eat the can full with a spoon if I were to make this...

  2. Oh I know that feeling.

    I opened one can early at 1AM and then I began to sample it, straight from the can with a spoon. It was a very thorough sampling.

    My hips may never be the same.

  3. Oooh, yours bulged? I would've freaked out. Even after 10 hours in the crock pot, mine didn't show signs of bulging. Guess it depends on brand and the condition of the cans. But I'm so glad you tried it! I am currently eating my 10-hour can from the fridge...

  4. They bulged, but only during the last two hours. It wasn't like 'GOING TO BLOW, GET BACK' kind of bulging, but it was pretty clear the cans were under pressure.

    I'm so glad I tried this too.

    Now I need to figure out what I am going to do with all this stuff!

  5. Hi - first time commenter, daily lurker here :D

    I just came by to get your recipie for the Hostess "copycakes" and then this popped up!

    I am now prepping the crock pot and sending out my Sidekick to pick up some ice cream. I think the waiting until tomorrow part will be the most difficult. I suppose I'll be making cupcakes in the meantime...

    Thanks for making such a sweet blog! (literally)

  6. Congrats on your first dulce-making experiment. :) I'm sure this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
    I've actually gotten around the OMG-hot-caramel-under-pressure!!! issue by poking a couple of small holes in the top of each can. The condensed milk takes a little bit longer to caramelise when you use this method, and you have to be careful with the water level because the cans can't be submerged... but it works. It really really works!
    (I'm just such a massive klutz that I didn't trust myself not to drop a can and send myself to the emergency room)

  7. Oooo, I was hoping for a pic of the life-threatening bulging cans! It's hard to believe how completely the milk is transformed with a simple--if lengthy--application of heat. Congratulations on emerging unscathed!

  8. I couldn't figure out why you were saying it was dangerous... had no idea you were supposed to leave the can *unopened*!
    The instructions I have say to take the lid off the can and to cover tightly in foil. Same results, no explosions :)

  9. Hmmm, "hot molten caramel bath" sounds like a spa treatment I'd pay good money for...

    And as for what to do with it (other than go at it with a spoon): banoffee pie!!!! Or a Humble-ified banoffe pie variation. Banoffee pocket pies? (It's like a Latin-British fusion dessert empanada!) Or get some chocolate involved somehow? Or sea salt it, and then go at it with a spoon. Or...

  10. Miya,

    I was thinking the exact same thing when I wrote that. It is hard to make warm caramel sound uninviting.

    Banoffee! Oooh good idea.

  11. I think I might get a crock pot, just to make this.

  12. The pics are make it look worth danger!!

  13. I think I'm in luuuurve!

    I need to try this. I'm not sure I'd be able to wait for the overnight cooling part though. I'd also need to do it while my partner was out at work cos he'd be a panic merchant bout me blowing up the house!

    Oh...wait...he's at work now...hmmmm ;-D

  14. Dulce de leche is sooooo good.

    Try a schmeer on crepes, with sliced bananas. That's an Argentine classic. Another good use is to mix it with an equal amount of Nutella and use it to fill tiny tart shells.

    Love your blog-- I've been lurking since the cephalopod cookies.

  15. Bite sized nutella and dulce de leche tarts!

    Marina, I love you.

    Now I know what am going to make tomorrow.

  16. I should add that I have exploded cans before, in the making of dulce de leche. Scrubbing caramel off every dish I own is not my favorite way of spending a day. I learned that it's *very* important to make sure the water level stays above the level of the cans.

  17. Wow, I honestly had no idea it was so dangerous??? Thanks for a warning though. Even if mom has always doen that successfully it ptobably doesn't mean that once I decide to try things would go just as smoothly lol

  18. How fun... you have inspired me to try this little science experiment... in time to be ready for "dessert Sunday"... homemade sushi and DDL, grilled peaches and vanilla ice cream! Yum! I love your descriptions and the photography is sublime... my husband and I were laughing out loud reading your exchange with Mr. Hubble re: the macaroons... sounded like our house!!

  19. Oh.
    Oh my.

    All I can say, is thank God for the miles between my house and yours or I would be stealing this.

    All of it.

  20. This made me think of you, thought I'd share :)

  21. Great method. I never thought this could be possible!

  22. My sister did this once when she was making Banoffee. There was carmel EVERYWHERE! She was still finding it in places a couple years later! It was even stuck to her ceiling! She said she'd never attempt that again. I'll have to tell her about using the crock-pot :)

  23. Serious Eats also showed the "Make it fast, cook it slow" technique of using ramekins or a casserole dish and a water bath in the crock pot - no explosion danger!

  24. I have always wanted to try this (boiling in a pan), but I never really thought it would work. Now that I see how you did it I really want to try it out. Just have to wait for my chicken to finish cooking in my crockpot. Thanks!

  25. some things are worth a little risk, and dulce de leche is one of 'em. my stars, your finished product looks absolutely luscious. you could make so many things with it...or eat it by the spoonful, which is what i suspect i'd do. :)

  26. Can you let these cool in the crockpot? I have an awful fear of making this in the crockpot, being a SUPER STAR, and then having the can suddenly explode in my hand, disfiguring me for life.

  27. Katie,

    Yes, you can do that. I would turn the pot off (obviously) and remove as much of the hot water as possible, so it doesn't continue to cook the caramel.

    Within an hour or two the cans should have cooled enough to remove from the pot without much risk.

  28. Mmmm now that you've got this done time for some!

  29. This was my fave desert when I was a child back in Brazil.

  30. another long time lurker first time commenter here

    this looks amazing. makes me wish i had a can of sweetened condensed milk around cause my mouth definitely watered. quite possibly a bit of drool as well. Def on my list to try. :)

  31. Phooey, for heaven's sake. I have made this a hundred times in a pot of simmering water. The trick is to lie the can down on its side so it rolls about freely and there are no hot-spots, and so both ends have the freedom to expand. Then neither end gets too stressed. I have never, never had an explosion.
    Put the can in the water that's maximally hot out of the tap and gradually bring it to a slow simmer, then leave it alone simmering for two hours. That's all you need, really. Pour out the hot water and just let it sit on the chopping block until it's pleasantly warm, then open it. You might get a small ooze when you make the first cut, but hey, that's just so you can taste it to make sure it's ok, right?
    The longer you simmer it, the darker it gets. I find that at about 2 hours it's a charming medium tan, smooth and silky. At three hours (oh heck, did I leave that on the stove??) it's darker, and at four (oh my lord, I went out and left that on the stove, and what's it going to be like?) it's almost chocolate-caramel color and more.... well, gloppy-solid is the only "word" I can think of for it.
    I have made this at camp in a dutch oven as a treat to keep kids warm in cold weather (lots of calories here) but it was a secret vice of my own kitchen for years. If you keep it in the can and refrigerate it long enough without consuming it, you can get delicious caramel crunchy stuff around the edges. Mine rarely lasted that long, though.

  32. oh my god, that looks AMAZING!!! i want to just eat it by the spoonful

  33. i have always used the stovetop method, but love your idea of using the crockpot...
    i just posted a recipe on my blog for banoffee pie which uses dulce ...
    you might like to try it...
    I am going to pass your recipe/link on to someone who has asked me for an easy dulce recipe!
    found you through foodgawker

  34. Mmmmm, makes me want to lick the computer screen...

  35. yum yum yum. I make this all the time (when I'm craving caramel, which is often). I only boil it for 2 hours though. And it never occurred to me that it was dangerous...hah oh well. I guess what I didn't know never hurt me. I wonder, does the 6 extra hours do all that much to it? Other than change it's name from caramel to dulce de leche?

  36. There isn't a difference in the result between 2 hours boiled on the stove and 8 hours in the crockpot.

    The crockpot is just a slower method, one that doesn't require watching the water levels. Something you must do when boiling on the stove, since allowing the water to boil away is how you create the infamous dulce de bombe.

  37. Love it! What's the foil for? Just curious.

  38. Foil prevents scratches or rust rings on the bottom of my crockpot. Nothing terribly exciting.

  39. how long will this stuff keep for?

  40. Unopened, it should keep for as long as the date printed on the can.

  41. I can't wait to try this. What size is your crockpot?

  42. Hummm. I've found that though small electronic appliances like slow cookers say not to, if the weather is nice you can hook them up outside. We often steam rice outside in the summer to keep the heat out of the kitchen. If you're worried about explosions you could move the cooker outdoors, weather permitting.

  43. Aj,

    My crock pot is pretty big. Roughly 6 quarts.

    Another Josh, that is a good tip for any worried/extra cautious dulce de leche maker.

  44. How long does an opened can of dulce de leche keep? You've got that picture of it spooned into one of those italian canning jars I've seen at fancy cooking stores and I was just thinking how awesome a Christmas gift homemade dulce de leche would be in those jars. Do you think you could trans-jar it and then put it through a canner?

  45. The dulce de leche keeps very well in those jars, in the fridge, for 3-4 weeks.

    As for canning, I'm really the worst person to ask that question.

    I'm one of those people who is convinced if she cans something, she is just creating a big ol' jar of botulism. Mother Humble is a skilled canner and I am still convinced that she will one day do me in.

    Naturally, I feel that if I advise you on how to can the dulce de leche, I will contribute to the death of all your friends and family.

    I like you geeklady, why would I want to do that?

  46. Hehehe, we grew up with a large garden and canned quite a bit of tomatoes for sauce when I was a child. And why not? My parents had 3 kids who though working the food mill that made puree from tomatoes was great fun.

    I wonder if the internet has any resources. I'm confident enough in my benchwork and laboratory methodology to not produce botulism.

  47. I do tomatoes every summer. Sweet husband grows them, I can them in quart jars. Easy-squeezy.
    Prep: Get out your big pot, the one you cook lobstahs in, mine's 26 qts. Fill about 2/3 full of water and set to boil. It will take awhile. Get out your smaller big pot, the one you cook corn on the cob in, fill it up and set it to boil.
    1) Use a slotted spoon to slide your tomatoes into the smaller pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds in boiling water, transfer to big bowl in one side of your sink. Repeat.
    2) Over second big bowl to catch the juice, slide skins off and discard once tomatoes are cool enough to handle. Cut out any blemishes with a small sharp knife.
    3) Cut into halves or quarters and pack loosely into quart Bell jars. When the jar is full, add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice (right outta the green bottle is fine) and one teaspoon of salt (right outta the round blue box is fine). Top off with juice from the bowl and some boiling water (you still have that pot with tomato-ey water on the stove). The acid in the tomatoes and the lemon juice plus the salt prevents the growth of anerobes (like botulism), plus you are going to sterilize it anyway.
    4) Poke down in there to release air bubbles. Screw on the ring with a new lid, TIGHT.
    5) Lower six or seven quart bottles into the boiling big lobstah pot. There is a nifty little tool that makes it easy to grab them and settle them in. When all your jars are in, the water should be about an inch over the tops.
    6) Boil for 30 minutes.
    7) Lift out onto the counter with a folded towel underneath them. Don't bang them against each other. Using a potholder, tighten the rings, because they will have stretched a little in the heat. Let them cool until they're room temp and the centers of the lids have popped down.
    Any lids that don't pop down, that bottle goes in the fridge (I usually get one per about 50 that doesn't seal, which is to say, one every other year, or less). The rest go in your pantry. Yummmy in wintah heated up with a little sugah, to eat like soup, or put into pasta or stew or sauces. And sooo pretty in the pantry.
    That's it. One teaspoon lemon juice, one teaspoon salt per quart, jar 'em up, cover with boiling water for half an hour.
    I also do yummy green beans with things like, oh, a bit of garlic powder or a dozen or so juniper berries or a coupla pinches of dill, and you still need the 1 teaspoon of salt per quart (or a half teaspoon per pint jar), and I throw in a good slug of vinegar ( about an inch per pint of cider, balsamic, red wine, white...) for the acid and then top off with the boiling water from the blanching. I have to fight my kids for them.
    Canning is a damn sight easier and healthier than macarons, LOL! And jelly, you don't even have to put in the boiling water. I'll tell you about that another time.

  48. Oooh, and apples! Worth it to get that grinder thingie attachment for your Kitchenaid. Quarts and quarts of lovely applesauce with nothing in it but fresh apples, and all the seeds, skin, and core goes right out the end of the gadget, you don't even have to peel them. Fill up the jar right from the end of the gadget while it grinds and strains, no sugar or lemon or salt, seal, and boil like the tomatoes for 90 minutes. MMMMMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. You want a nice applesauce cake midwinter?

  49. Ooh plethora of canning advice! Thank you!

    Mmmm love homemade applesauce.

    When I was young we had acres of apple trees and my mother would can apple sauce and juice made from the Yellow Transparents that dotted the property.

    So good.

  50. castorag,

    Oh one more thing!

    I boiled my first batch of cans on the stove this week. No one died, no explosions, no caramel spray on my ceiling.

    It was a little anti-climatic. Yummy though.

  51. Ms. Humble!

    I put my Eagle can in the crockpot on low for 8 hours, then turned off the crockpot but let it cool down overnight inside the water. In the morning, when I opened the can, expecting the rich, yummy thick dulce de leche, I ended up having not very thick condensed milk...! It almost looked as though nothing had happened.

    Do you think letting it cool down inside the water in the crockpot was the problem? It's the only thing I did different to you!

  52. Elizabeth,

    Sounds like it didn't cook for long enough. Couple things might have happened here:

    1. Perhaps your crock pot is a slow starter. If you used cold water it might take an extra long time for it to come to temperature (hours even). You could fix this by starting with hot water.

    2. Your crock pot's low setting is really, really low. So low in fact that 8 hours isn't enough time for it to caramelize the sugars in the milk. You can turn up the heat a bit or give it extra time, how long? That might take some trial and error.

    There is always the boil on the stove top method. Place cans in the water, cover with several inches of water. Bring to a boil. Count off two hours and make sure the water level never drops below the top of the can. So add more water to the pot periodically.

    I've done this myself several times since posting the crock-pot method and it works fine, has never blown up in my face and delivers the carmel goodness fast.

  53. How long will the caramel keep in a unopened can? and does it need to be refrigerated?


Related Posts with Thumbnails