What follows isn’t for those with an intolerance for the saccharinely sweet.
Now that we’ve dispensed with that …
Dulce de leche.
I love it.
I first got acquainted with the stuff when I moved to New York. At the time I lived a few subway stops away from Washington Heights, a predominately hispanic neighborhood, and every now and then my friend and I would venture to the Heights to shop for cheap produce.
On one occasion, I picked up what I thought was a can of condensed milk for a flan we planned to make. But it wasn’t condensed milk. It was dulce de leche. For a moment I thought the condensed milk went rancid, so I dug out a small spoonful to try it, just to make sure (I can’t explain the logic behind that).
My god, it was good.
I’ve been obsessed with the stuff ever since. I spread it on toast, slather it on apples and bananas, and every now and then, eat it straight up with a spoon. But my absolute favorite way to eat dulce de leche is to have it swirled through brownies.
The great thing about dulce de leche is that in a pinch, you can make your own at home, too. Simply boil an unopened can of condensed milk, with the label ripped off, in a huge pot of boiling water, uncovered, for about 3-4 hours. The trick is to make sure the can stays submerged in about an inch of water at all times. Otherwise, the can could very well explode. Let the can cool for about an hour or two before opening and unveiling your sweet, gooey, caramel mass. Every now and then I stir in a pinch of cinnamon and a drop of vanilla extract to give it a little something-something.
One time, the C-Town down the street was having a sale on condensed milk, and I bought four cans, which were promptly turned into dulce de leche.
But I’m afraid the cans didn’t have a very happy ending. I left the cans, stripped of their labels, in a kitchen cupboard and promptly forgot about them. A month or two went by when another one of my flatmates was cleaning out the kitchen cabinets and cupboards when she came across these mystery cans. She opened one of them, just to check its contents, and was appalled when she saw a mass of sticky, brown gunk. Thinking whatever was in the cans reached its expiration date, she promptly threw them out … without sampling to make sure the contents were indeed, expired.
Obviously, she isn’t nearly as adventurous as I am.
Dulce de Leche Brownies
Makes about 16 brownies
1 recipe Fudgy Cocoa Brownies
1/2 cup (or more) dulce de leche
Coarse sea salt
Mix the brownie batter, following the Fudgy Cocoa Brownies recipe.
Spread half the batter into your lined pan. Dollop tablespoonfuls of the dulce de leche over the brownie batter, spacing a half-inch or so apart. With the tip of a sharp knife, swirl the dulce de leche through the brownie batter. You don’t need to sink the knife all the way in, just gently glide the tip through the surface. Patch on the remaining brownie batter over the swirled dulce-brownie mixture, and repeat the dolloping and swirling of the remaining dulce de leche.
Sprinkle a little bit of coarse sea salt over your dulce-brownie masterpiece. You don’t have to do this step, but the contrast of the sweet and salty is actually quite lovely.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, and allow to cool completely. The edges will be firm and slightly cracked, the dulce de leche bubbling, and the middle slightly soft.
Heaven, I tell you.