Dulce de Leche is a sweet spread similar to caramel that is popular in South America. You can sometimes find it in the Mexican foods section of any grocery store. Store-bought dulce de leche tends to have a peanut butter consistency that is difficult to spread on delicate pie crusts or cookies, but by making it at home you can control the consistency. All you need to make your own at home is a can of sweetened condensed milk!
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Step 1: Prepare and Boil!
Take the label off your can of sweetened condensed milk. Lay the can down in a large pot. Fill pot with water till can is covered by at least an inch of water, preferably more. Bring water to a rolling boil, then turn down the heat so a steady boil is maintained.
DO NOT leave your boiling can unattended - if the water level drops below the level of the can, the can will overheat and explode and you will get to wash hot sweetened condensed milk off your ceiling. Check your pot frequently and refill the pot with water any time you notice it getting close to the level of your can. This will be about every 20-30 minutes depending on how much water you had in the first place.
1.5 hours - yields a pourable dulce de leche perfect for topping ice cream or waffles!
2 hours - yields a soft-set dulce de leche (just softer than peanut butter) perfect for candy, cake, or pie filling
3-4 hours - yields a solid-set dulce de leche similar to the consistency of canned cranberry sauce, perfect for slicing and serving with fruit
Step 2: The Finished Product
At the end of boiling time, remove pot from heat. Let the can sit in the hot water for about 10-15 minutes, till water cools slightly. Remove can with a pair of tongs to a cooling rack. Don't drop it as you transfer it or you'll get a pretty spectacular dulce de leche explosion. Let can rest on cooling rack until it is easy to handle without burning yourself.
When it's cool enough to handle, open your can and enjoy your dulce de leche! Use it in pies, on ice cream, in cookies, or on anything you think needs a little extra caramel-y goodness!
To save time, boil several cans at once. They can be store unopened (and cooled!) in your pantry for several months.