If coal is subjected to intense heat and pressure, it can turn into a diamond. If an oyster is exposed to a very precise set of conditions, a pearl can be formed. And if a can of sweetened condensed milk is submerged in a pot of boiling water for two hours… you end up with the greatest jewel of all…. DULCE DE LECHE
My love affair with dulce de leche first started in Chile, when I discovered it under a different name: Manjar. Chileans eat Manjar in the same way we eat Nutella – except in MUCH greater amounts and higher frequencies. Manjar is produced commercially in Chile by Nestlé, can be bought from supermarkets in huge foil sachets or plastic tubs and is found on the table at EVERY meal. Breakfast, Lunch and Once…. each meal is commonly finished with a generous slather of Manjar on a piece of bread. Not having a huge sweet tooth, the idea of spreading caramel over my morning toast wasn’t that appealing at first but man… after having it three times a day, every day for 10 days, I became completely addicted. I couldn’t go a meal without my Manjar. There is some mysterious quality to it that makes it so so very more-ish. I think it’s the milk element – it’s not just sickly sweet caramel – ie cooked sugar, but the milkiness of it makes it seem almost wholesome.
Here is some photographic evidence to show you the extent of my obsession with Manjar.
I don’t think I’ve ever smiled that broadly since that moment….
In Argentina they call it dulce de leche which means “candy of milk” or in other words “milk jam” and it is most commonly found in sandwiched between two chocolate coated biscuits in Alfajores. Determined to bring the glory of dulce de leche back to Australia and excited about the happiness it would be bring to all my family and friends, I picked up about 6 jars at the Duty Free store in Buenos Aires before my flight to Sydney. BUT THEN the cashier informed me that because they included milk product, they wouldn’t pass customs in Australia and SHE DIDN’T EVEN LET ME BUY THEM. Total devastation.
Back in Sydney I searched EVERYWHERE. SURELY some like minded person would have had the sense to start importing this gorgeous latin american sweet into Australia. But alas, it only reappeared in my life as a dip for Churros or as a filling inside small chocolate bon bons. Little glimpses of our former passion.
Some obscure recipe websites suggested that I boil cans of condensed milk… but I didn’t want to risk exploding cans in my kitchen. The idea seemed a little too crazy and a little too simple. I did try cooking the condensed milk directly (poured from the can into a saucepan) but that was a complete fail – I ended up with a brown lump of inedible rock-hard caramel candy.
But I finally decided to give the boiling cans a go. Putting my trust in Cafe Sopra’s recipe for Banoffee Pie – I put my kitchen at risk to make a special treat for my dearest friends at my Kitchen Tea. If Sopra does it, I can do it. So here goes…
Two cans of sweetened condensed milk completely submerged in boiling water that is taken down to a medium-heat simmer and left there for two hours. If you have some spare time and don’t mind enduring the noise of rattling cans for a couple of hours – this step is super easy. Just make sure the cans are covered in water at all times.
Then I took out the cans (which, thankfully, had not exploded, but were just bulging out a little) and put them in the fridge for a couple of extra hours.
In the wait time, I made the base which is a ridiculously easy cheesecake base made from crumbled digestive biscuits and melted butter. If you don’t have a food processor, it’s quite fun to go caveman on the biscuits and just smash them up with a blunt object.
After the cans had cooled, I peeled off the tin lid for the moment of truth:
OH the pure happiness of this moment!!!! WE ARE FINALLY REUNITED MY DARLING!!! All those years you were waiting in a can on a supermarket shelf for me to just pick you up and boil you! I’m so sorry I took so long…
So it really is that easy!! Readers: if you are a true lover of good food, you NEED to get your hands on a can of condensed milk and boil that baby up! What awaits you is truly like nothing else on this earth. It is too easy and too delicious to not try or even wait for a later day – the more you wait, the fewer days of life you’ll have left to enjoy it!!!
But back to the pie. I didn’t take any process photos because cooking for me is hard enough as it is when not being distracted by a secondary task. I felt I was on the road to a winner, especially after the can boiling success, but I hit a minor speed bump with the whipped cream. You know, it is a bit suspicious that Cafe Sopra would publish the recipe for one of their signature dishes – and such an easy one at that. Why pay $8 a slice when you could make it at home for about the same price? They couldn’t… possibly…. sabotage the recipe could they??? They wouldn’t!!!!! Well I’m not making accusations, but the recipe directs you to use a ridiculously small amount of cream – 60ml. And they want you to beat that with 75gms of icing sugar – so its almost equal parts cream and sugar. It didn’t seem quite right, but I tried it hoping for a chemical reaction to work its magic. After 5 minutes of thorough whipping – nothing. Still watery cream. I quickly googled a few other banoffee pie recipes and they all recommended more than a cup of cream – so I dumped the rest of the tub into the bowl and managed to get it to a decent fluffy consistency. So if you want to use this recipe, go 300ml of cream, NOT 60ml!
With some grated chocolate to cover up the sloppy cream – here is the finished product:
(confession: these are day two photos… hence the mushy banana. I was too busy/lazy yesterday to take photos of the fresh pie – sorry!!!)
And the verdict? Well everyone who tasted it pretty much had their minds blown. No credit to me however – the recipe is basically fool proof and there is almost zero actual cooking involved – it is the pure seductive power of the dulce de leche. The pie is really decadent so people can generally only handle a few mouthfuls at a time… half the pie is still sitting in my fridge 😦 I think next time I’ll make it in little tartlet tins and take out the sugar from the whipped cream. OR I’ll just stop after the boiling cans and dip everything I can find in the dulce de leche – fruit, bread, cookies, muffins, cakes, ice cream, the possibilities are ENDLESS! I’m just happy we’re together again 🙂