I was watching the new(-ish) Cooking Channel the other day and watched Canadian chef Chuck Hughes toss a can of sweetened condensed milk unopened in a pot of water and into the oven to make homemade dulce de leche. I was so impressed that I had to try it on my own, and it was truly as easy as it seems.
Because it’s really sweet, you really have to use the dulce de leche as part of a dessert, rather than try and eat it on its own. I opted for a cheesecake, inspired by this Bon Apetit recipe. Since it’s all there, I’ll just give you the lowdown on the dulce de leche.
There appear to be two schools of thought on making dulce de leche. One leaves the can in tact, submerging it in water and covering the ovenproof pan with foil to avoid evaporation. Bake at 400 degrees for an hour or so, let the can cool, and it’s done.
The other involves pouring the condensed milk into an ovenproof dish, sprinkling in some salt and submerging the dish in a larger one with water high enough to cover the inside pan about halfway up. Cover all this in foil and bake. I like this method because the salt helps give the dulce de leche a more complex flavor, rather than all sweetness, and you can check in on the milk and stir it around until you know it’s reached the right golden brown color.
Once you’ve made the dulce de leche, let it cool completely before using. You can add a drop or two of milk or warm it up in order to get the mixture flowing if it gels up. I made it one night, then made the cheesecake the next night, and combine the two on the third night when both were properly cooled. Another night of cooling, and then it was ready to eat.
I know, lots of nights to make a cheesecake! But the result was delicious, and I boasted with pride that the entire thing was made from scratch. Just don’t tell anyone how easy it is.