Caramelized milk – Dulce de leche

Cooking is like a language and it develops in a similar way with her. Many changes can occur but we can still be undestood.

Just like it happened with dulce de leche.It is the most popular and traditional dessert for the Argentines.Ιf someone wants to declare his Argentinian identity he claims that he is as Argentinian as dulce de leche is.

From Asia, it went through Europe and then to Latin America.It seems that the Argentines were the last to discover this product, but do not reveal this secret to them!

The word, literally means «dessert made of milk».Dulce de Leche is a sweet cream or dip or sauce, depending on its density.Nowadays, it is used to garnish diffent kinds of desserts like cakes, pies, biscuits and ice creams. It fits perfectly with bananas, meringue, churros, flan, waffles, crepes, pancakes and muffins.It can be also used in savory food preparation, such as in bread. In France, it exists as confiture de lait and sometimes it replaces the cheese cream or it is combined with it.

It is made in different densities that are achieved just by stopping the boiling in different times.Density varies depending on the usage. The basic recipe demands slow boiling of milk and sugar in medium heat, while we
constantly stir with a wooden ladle so that it will not get burned. We may add a flavoring, such as vanilla as well.As the water evaporates, the mixture becomes thicker.The remaining milk is 1/6 of the initial quantity.

During the preparation process, there is a combination of two common reactions: the process that the product is caramelized and the maillard reaction(non-enzymatic reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that is enhanced by the heat, which browns off the food and adds flavour).

A kind of homemade recipe for dulce de leche mainly for the countries that are deprived of this product is to boil condensed milk for 2-3 hours ( or half an hour to 45 minutes in a pressure cooker). The final product is similar to the authentic but it is sweeter in comparison with the one that is slowly cooked.

In 2003, Argentina made a request in UNESCO to declare dulce de leche an Argentinian cultural heritage but the attempt was unsuccessful. Uruguay did the same, considering that it should be declared a gastronomic heritage of Río de la Plata (a place that the two countries share). However, this dessert can be claimed to be a European one as well, coming from Normandy.

There is a local legend supporting that the chef of a garisson forgot in the heat the condensed milk that he was preparing for breakfast. It’s similarity to confiture de lait was pretty obvious. Dulce de leche is often mentioned as milk jam: during its preparation, fruits are replaced with milk.

Οn the surface, it is similar to a hazel cream, but it’s ingredients are exclusively powdered milk (80%), cane sugar, corn syrup, calcium hydroxide, lactase and vanilla. This cream is greatly consumed in Uruguay, north Brazil and in the rest of Latin America.Ιn Mexico it is called Cajeta, in Peru, Chile and Εcuador it is called Μanjar blanco,in Colombia and in Venezuela Αrequipe and in Cuba Fanguito.

Adding soda was what the Argentines did and in that way they changed forever the texture and the colour of the dessert, which used to be almost white and liquid, while now it is a viscous and bronze colour cream.

They changed a word in the language but we can still understand each other.

Καραμελωμένο γάλα - Dulce de leche

In 2003 and 2008 some people presented evidence supporting that the dessert is Chilean and during the wars for the liberation from the Spaniards it reached the Andes.Αrgentina was already importing dulce de leche from Chile in 1620, where they used it in order to stuff their local dessert, alfajores. Even if we have evidence for the dessert consumption in Chile since colonialism, the country never claimed the fatherhood of the recipe.

There are many stories claiming that the dessert was discovered in different places when the cooker tuned out or forgot the milk in the fire. In Argentina the story has an official date: 24 of June in 1829. Ιt is claimed that the cooker of the Buenos Aires governor forgot, while preparing lechada, the condensed milk that is added in mate, so in that way the first dulce de leche was created. Nevertheless, forgetting the condensed milk in the heat, is an older story.

The process that made people consume milk is quite slow and complicated. Nine thousand years ago, goats and sheeps were the first domestic animals. After two millenniums, cows were domesticated as well. They were used as food, their bones were used for tool construction and their skin for clothing. In 3.500 B.C humans started consuming milk. Ιt was a yak, goat, cow or sheep milk, that was used as a replacement for the mother milk.Ιn opposition to the human milk, all these kind of milks are more bitter, that is why humans added honey and sugar in order to consume it. Fire enhanced the liquid’s temperature and endurance. Νomadic people discovered that boiling the milk with honey, contributed to its endurance.

Without being sure about which of the two countries is the one, the use of condensed milk started from Persia or India and was widespread worldwide.The Persian Mahallabiyya and the Indian Rabri are age-old and they are like twins.Both of them are actually dulce de leche but a little bit more liquid and more light colored. They were prepared in the same way, by using initially honey and then sugar.

This age-old recipe reached Indonesia and then it reached the Philippines that belonged to the Spanish people. There it was named«dulce gatas» and in that way it was spread from the Pacific to America and mainly in the area of Acapulco, where the Spanish Filipinos used to anchor their ships. From the Acapulco, where vanilla was added as a local flavoring, it travelled to the Peru, the Chile and then in Argentina.The origin of the recipe is questioned and there is a conflict between the people of Latin America that share similar stories in order to claim the fatherhood of the recipe. Even if the recipe is not an Argentinian one, it would deserve to be, because, if we take into consideration the words of the Argentines, it is the product that fits perfectly to their palate and it is their favourite dessert.

This is dulce de leche, with the intense, strong and clear flavor that is compatible with the idiosyncrasy and the taste of the Argentines. It is their gastronomic heritage and they remain the top consumers of it worldwide. With strawberries, chocolate, with bread as a breakfast meal, as a stuffing in other desserts, or just a spoonful of it, they do not care if they born it or if they adopted it.

If you ask them, they would claim for certain that this is their heritage!

You can taste it right now! You may ask for our Dulce de leche and use it

in your recipes!