Decadent Caramel Sauce: Slow-Cooked Dulce de Leche

Ah, dulce de leche – this caramel sauce is delightfully decadent and can be made at home from a can of sweetened condensed milk.  Loosely translated, it means milk jam, and is traditionally used in South American desserts.  Cooked slowly over a long period of time, the condensed milk becomes a thick caramelized sauce for an unforgettable sweet treat that can be enjoyed in many different ways.  I thought it would be perfect with ice cream and made a simple vanilla sundae with dulce de leche, chopped pretzels and topped it with a cherry (I had some leftover from my cocktail post).  The sauce has a caramel, butterscotch flavor and the pretzels add a fun, unusual salty flavor in contrast to the sweet vanilla ice cream –it’s a different twist on the classic sundae.

Most of the dulce de leche recipes that I have seen call for boiling or baking an unopened can of condensed milk in water for 3 to 4 hours; this method can be dangerous if not attended to properly, resulting in an exploded can.  That alone, not to mention the time requirement, made me shy away from the process.  Thankfully I found references online that described a bain marie (water bath) and microwave method, both much safer and quicker than the boiling-in-the-can method.  I used the bain marie process, which took an hour and a half and was relatively easy to do.  I haven’t tried the microwave method yet and will probably opt for that next time.  The microwave directions call for just 30 minutes total cooking time, with stirring every few minutes.  You want the end result to be a light caramel color that is just thick enough to pour.  It makes about 1 cup of sauce and will store in the refrigerator (in a sealed container) for about 4 weeks, although I doubt it will last that long before it is eaten up!

For a healthier option, I sliced some honeycrisp apples – they have a crisp, firm texture with lots sweet juicy flavor – drizzled a bit of the sauce on them and added some Marcona almonds for a nice crunch.   The dulce de leche is also a star ingredient for the toffee in the English Banoffee pie, a mouth-watering dessert I recently saw recreated on Chuck’s Day Off (he is my new TV/DVR indulgence).   The options for dulce de leche are endless, even by the spoonful – sinfully delicious! 

Eat well and share the love!

Dulce de Leche
Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies

One 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Bain Marie/Water Bath Method:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. 

Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk into a glass or ceramic pie plate, or small baking dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Place in a roasting pan or large pyrex baking dish and fill with hot water until it reaches halfway up the pie plate/baking dish.

Bake for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours until sauce is caramel colored and thick enough to pour.  Check the water level during cooking and add more as necessary.  Remove from the oven and take the dish out of the roasting pan/water; stir or whisk well and let the dulce de leche cool.

Store the dulce de leche in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.  To serve, gently warm in the microwave or a water bath.

Microwave Method:
Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk into a 2 quart glass measuring cup.  Cook on medium power (50%) for 2 minutes, stir well and repeat.  Cook for 20 to 25 minutes on medium-low power (30%) until caramel colored and thick enough to pour, stirring well every 4 minutes and then every 2 minutes during the last 5 or 6 minutes.

Let cool; store the dulce de leche in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.  To serve, gently warm in the microwave or a water bath.

7 responses to “Decadent Caramel Sauce: Slow-Cooked Dulce de Leche

  1. We made this last night and poured it over vanilla bean ice cream and it was so delicious! The pretzels added a nice salty crunch and created a great contrast. We were eating it by the spoonful before adding it to the ice cream – it was that good. Also it was so easy to make. I bought a honeycrisp as you suggested, for tonight’s dessert. Can’t wait for that treat!

    • I am so glad you and Ron tried it!   It is easy to make and so worth having around to dress up the ordinary dessert (or to perk up your spirits with a spoonful).  When I told David dessert was ice cream with pretzels he wasn’t crazy about the idea, but soon changed his mind after one bite. 

  2. Woooooooow we had it last night. It was so good over vanilla ice cream and crushed pretzels

  3. A perfect recipe to use on the fabulous in season apples! We’ll give it a try.

  4. I wonder if it would work in the slow cooker also?

    Great recipe Melissa!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s