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dulce de leche + ice cream

Appropriate uses for dulce de leche: Thinly spread on crêpes. Thickly spread to sandwich two butter cookies. A generous dollop in coffee. Over fruit (bananas, mangoes), sprinkled with chopped peanuts. On and in ice cream, of course.

Inappropriate uses for dulce de leche: Spackling compound (too sticky). A treat for your cat (unhealthy). Ignored on the shelf (so sad).

dulce de leche by the spoonful

Dulce de leche combines my love of soft caramel and my weird childhood hankering for evaporated milk. (What? It was creamy richness in a can. 😉 But the thought of boiling an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk (well, any kind of unopened can) raised fears of kitchen explosions and burns.

On the other hand, Mercedes provides (via David Lebovitz) a less hazardous method: (1) Open can and pour contents into a heat-proof dish. (2) Place foil-covered dish in a hot water bath. (3) Bake in 425ºF degree oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until nicely tanned. Three simple steps, woo!

After going through this a couple times, I learned that, yes, I do need to maintain the water level, so that it doesn’t dip much below the level of the milk in the dish. Otherwise, it curdles; still edible, but then I need to run it through a sieve. (Turns out I need only top off once or twice during the process.) In addition, a dish with a small base (like a glass bowl) will greatly increase the baking time (nearly 2 to 3 hours!). Try to find a dish with a broader base, like a pie dish (which took only a hair over 1 hour). More surface area is my friend, indeed.

So warm weather means pulling out the ice cream maker. With dulce de leche sitting in my fridge and Deb of Smitten Kitchen’s recipe in hand, how could I resist?

The joy of this ice cream recipe is that I didn’t need to make the usual egg custard. My Crazy Theory is that dulce de leche, with its thick almost gelatin-like texture, acts as an excellent custard substitute, thank ye very much.

I ended up making a half recipe of Deb’s formula, in a somewhat lazy fashion. I dumped half a pound of the sweet goodness directly into the sauce pan (with the scale, my savior), then poured in 1 cup whole milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream. (I omitted the vanilla and nuts.) I heated everything to scalding, whisking with a silicone whisk (another kitchen savior) into happy smoothness. Then my Usual Ice Cream method kicks in.

The result? I don’t have a photo because it looked…uh, beige. (Not terribly appealing, IMHO.) But the flavor and texture are spot on. Cooling for a hot day, with luscious caramel goodness. And I need to make another batch, because it’s all gone.

Update (4 June 2014). Hrm, I still get curdling (like a pudding skin), even though I lowered the temperature from 425º to 350º over halfway through baking (at the “convection speed” setting, fwiw). The water bath never became dry, but I had to refill it twice. Perhaps next time I’ll just bake at a lower temp (350?) for longer, to see if this occurs again. The dulce-pud-skin is tasty, of course, just not smooth.

Update (18 July 2012). Finally, a photo. The ice cream turned out a bit darker than beige in this batch.

Dulce de leche ice cream

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