baking hack · baking science · caramelization · condensed milk · dulce de leche · Maillard reaction · recipes

Leftover condensed milk? No problem!

Don’t you hate it when a recipe calls for anything-less-than-an-entire-can of sweetened condensed milk?  I do and I know that sometimes it’s unavoidable.  So what do you do with the remaining condensed milk?  Sure you can save it for another time or find another recipe to use up the leftovers.  I usually turn the condensed milk into dulce de leche, mostly because I love it.  I kid.  Seriously though, I do that because I don’t have to worry about how much condensed milk I have left.  Some recipes call for more or less than what I have leftover.  And I find that holding onto it for another time never works out for one reason or another.  It is best to use it up right away.
Yes, you can absolutely get store-bought dulce de leche.  But that defeats the purpose of using up the condensed milk.  If you search for how to make dulce de leche, you’ll find a lot of ways to make it.  I’ve made it on the stove top, where you cook the condensed milk in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly.  And I mean constantly.  You definitely earn your calories using this method.  The cons of the stove top method are that it can burn easily (which I’ve done the first few times I tried to make it) and your wrist and arm hurt (does it count as an arm toning exercise?).
Another way to make it is using a water bath, where you bake the sweetened condensed milk, covered in the oven.  I haven’t attempted this.  Mostly because I’m afraid something will go wrong, especially since you can’t see what’s going on until the end of the baking time.  Aluminum foil isn’t transparent.  Also, I lack Superman’s power of x-ray vision.  I’ll probably try it at some point though.
The method I’m using for this week’s post is the double-boiler method.  Pro is that you’re not stirring constantly.  You leave it on the stove and forget it for awhile.  Con is that it takes a very, very long time (we’re talking 1 1/2 to 2 hours).  However, its worth it if you have the time.  Also, you’re less likely to burn it and you can check-in on it and see what’s going on
Using the double-boiler requires a lot of patience and time.  But if you have both, the results are delicious.  Look at it this way, you’ve got the chance to clear out your DVR or binge watch a show on Netflix, read a book or play a board game like Jumanji.  Maybe do all of the above… well probably not Jumanji.  No matter which method you use, making dulce de leche is a great way to use up leftover sweetened condensed milk.
I just realized that I’ve written this long post about various ways of making dulce de leche but haven’t told you what it is.  If you don’t know, it is basically a Spanish caramel made from sweetened condensed milk.  Dulce de leche means “candy made from milk.”  It is used in many Latin American countries in a variety of dishes such as flans and cakes.  My favorite way to have it is in ice cream.  It’s awesome.
Haven’t convinced you yet?  Well, how about I try with science.  Heating the condensed milk creates a Maillard reaction, which is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars.  The Maillard reaction is the reason for the taste and appearance of the dulce de leche.  Essentially it is browning the sweetened condensed milk thereby changing its color and taste.  So not only do you get a great-tasting caramel, you’re doing science and learning too.  What can be better than that?
img_3638Here’s the recipe:  Homemade Dulce de leche (by Naseem)
Yield:  about 1 cup
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1.  Fill a medium pot with water about 3/4 full.  Place on stove and bring to a boil.  Once the water starts boiling, lower the heat to low.
2.  Pour condensed milk in a bowl that fits over the top of the pot.
3.  Place the bowl over the pot with water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl (the bowl should site above the boiling water without touching it).
4.  Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until it thickens and turns a toffee-brown (like Werther’s Original candies).  Remove bowl from heat.
5.  Whisk until smooth and spoon into container.  Cool and store in fridge.

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