If you like caramel, then you will love dulce de leche! It’s exponentially better than caramel and you will find this sweet treat throughout Patagonia. Our recipe for Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel Dessert puts a South American spin on the classic creme caramel dessert.
After all of that magnificent hiking at Torres Del Paine, you deserve some of life’s pleasures. Dulce de leche is a traditional Argentinian dessert enjoyed across South and Central America. Just what you need after a strenuous, multi-day hike to get your energy back! Dulce de leche creme caramel is a real taste of South America.
Depending on where you are, dulce de leche can also be referred to as manjar, manjar blanco, arequipe, or cajeta. When literally translated, dulce de leche means “sweet from milk”. However, in English it is commonly known as “milk jam” or “milk candy”. Dulce de leche can be used to form rich fillings in cookies, chocolates and cakes, flavor ice-cream or to create delicious and indulgent cheesecakes.
Dulce de leche recipes vary depending on where you find them. In Argentina the treat is made using milk and sugar plus a small amount of vanilla essence and baking soda. In Uruguay however, dulce de leche ingredients are simpler, requiring just milk and sugar.
In its simplest form, to make dulce de leche, you slowly heat milk with sugar. The mixture is stirred gently throughout allowing the water from the milk to evaporate leaving behind the thick, sweet dulce de leche. However, care must be taken to not overheat the milk and the mixture must be stirred constantly to avoid burning. (Don’t worry our version is much simpler than this and tastes just as good). In some cases cream is added to the milk if it is not considered creamy enough and some places use goat’s milk as an alternative to cow’s milk.
The first historical reference to dulce de leche comes from a peace meeting between Juan Manuel de Rosas and his political enemy, Juan Lavalle, in 1829. According to legend, dulce de leche was produced by accident when Manuel de Rosa’s maid was cooking some milk and sugar and was unexpectedly called. Upon her return, the mixture had transformed into a thick, brown consistency. From that point forward, the new dessert was referred to as dulce de leche.
You can read more about the history of dulce de leche here.
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It’s amazing how many foods and drinks have been created accidentally. Whatever the origins of dulce de leche, it is a supreme pleasure. It is everywhere throughout South America and would appear somewhere on the dessert menu for most restaurants. We featured Mamuschka Chocolate in our recent Bariloche post where high quality chocolates are filled with dulche de leche. Divine.
Making good dulce de leche is simple. But be warned, once you have made this you’ll find it very difficult to resist making it all the time. You simply place a can of sweetened, condensed milk on its side in a large pot. Fill the pot with water and bring to the boil. Then simmer for 2 to 4 hours, depending how thick and dark you want it.
You might be wondering why such a classic European dessert is being featured in food from Patagonia? There is a huge European food influence in South America. Spain, of course, France, Italy (40% of Argentinians are of Italian descent, including Pope Francis), German and British. Did you know there was a strong Welsh community in Patagonia? In the race to control South America, European powers were keen to establish settlements in sparsely populated Patagonia. So in Patagonia you will find a strong European influence with local twists.
Dulce de Leche Creme Caramel is a classic dessert that is surprisingly easy to make and provides an indulgent taste of Patagonia.