In which I attempt the greatest culinary feat of my life (till date), and partially succeed.
Freshly out of ideas for my next baking project, I asked my friend Diviani what I should make next. She suggested these Argentinian cookies called Alfajores. They sounded delectable - lemon flavoured white cookies sandwiched with Dulce de Leche and topped with grated coconut. It was a terrifying undertaking, mostly because you don’t get Dulce de Leche in India, which meant I would have to make it myself. The process sounded similar to the Indian Kheer although the consistency was different. Now, making good Kheer is a tedious task - you have to stand at the stovetop stirring away for hours. I was not looking forward to it. There were a few recipes though that suggested baking a tin of condensed milk in a bain marie in an oven but I was freshly out of suitable utensils to construct one (read: I don’t have any). So it had to be the stovetop method. It was a daunting task but like a good soldier I ploughed on. Milk in India has an exceptionally low fat content, so I started by adding fat to the milk in the form of cream. I added a tin of condensed milk for good measure. Then began the stirring. Thankfully for the most part I had company in the form of my best friend while doing so and we had Fruit Ninja championships on our phones while the milk cooked under our mostly watchful eyes. Then we hit a snag. The milk looked at one point that it had thickened enough (it was forming ribbons) so I took it off the heat and dumped it in the blender. But a few pulses later it was all runny all over again. Dismay and devastation! We thought of bunging it in the freezer but that didn’t work. In the end, I went at it for one more round of heating and stirring during which my poor lazy arms almost fell off and the result as the thick gooey goodness you see in the photo above.
As for the cookies, as for the cookies. Well. I used the first recipe I found (which was this one) and from the beginning it looked a bit suspect. 1/2 cup of butter to 2 cups of flour? But I have this thing that takes hold of me sometimes when I simply HAVE to follow a recipe to a t, and against my better judgement I did so this time. The results were… not great. It was a soft yet dry, dense cookie which could have done with a lot more butter and a bit more baking time. I’m not putting up the recipe here because I am not pleased with it. However I have had an idea of modifying the recipe to something far more delectable - watch this space!
Homemade Dulce de Leche
900 ml milk
750 ml heavy cream
1 tin condensed milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
Generous, and I mean extremely generous splash of vanilla
Combine all the ingredients except the baking powder and the vanilla and set to heat in the largest pot you have. The milk is going to foam up when heated and you need something big to accommodate the volume.
When the milk is slightly warmed, add the baking powder and vanilla. The milk will foam up at this point due to the baking powder. Lower the heat accordingly when it does.
Turn up the heat again till the milk boils over and foams. At this point turn down the heat exactly as much as you need to turn it down to keep the milk from spilling over. The idea is to keep the heat as high as possible. You do not want additional cooking time.
Give it a stir once in a while as it bubbles away and skim the foam from the top. You don’t have to do this all the time, just once in a while.
As the milk reduces stir it more and more often till you come to the point where you have to stir it continuously to keep it from sticking to the bottom. It should be pretty thickened by now.
At one point the thickened milk will start to sputter with little bubbles. Be careful to not get burned at this point, because I did. Turn down the heat a bit when this happens but DO NOT stop stirring.
When the milk has thickened enough to form ribbons (you should see a distinct ribbon of thickened milk forming if you drop a ladleful of it onto its surface) take off heat and blend. It should become runnier after this.
Return the milk to the pot and stir over medium/high heat. This will take a lot of energy, more so as it keeps thickening. But you cannot stop. Keep changing arms and keep on stirring. Eventually you’ll come to a point where you will be able to see the bottom of the pot with every scrape of the ladle. Keep at it for a bit more until you get a consistency which you can spread on biscuits for example. I thickened mine a bit more than that in my zeal.
This should keep in a fridge for a few days or in the freezer for a bit more. I am planning to make ice cream with mine!