Sous Vide Dulce de Leche
Why This Recipe Works
Dulce de leche translates to “sweet milk.” A staple of the Latin American pantry, it is used as a sweetener for candies, cakes, ice creams, cookies, churros, and as a topping for waffles and pancakes—even stirred straight into coffee. Traditionally, it is made by slowly cooking milk and sugar together for hours, until the mixture is light brown and possesses a caramel-like flavor. These days, most dulce de leche is made by cooking unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk in a pot of boiling water or even in a pressure cooker. Textures vary from thick and fudgy to runny and smooth, but the principle remains the same: Heat accelerates the Maillard reaction, a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars, that gives many foods their distinctive browned, cooked flavor. This reaction happens quickly at high temperatures (as with searing a steak) but also occurs at lower temperatures—as low as 150°F/65.5°C. At these lower temperatures, it just takes more time. We decided to take advantage of this low, slow reaction by cooking our dulce de leche sous vide. Our version cooks for 12 hours at 185°F/85°C. The benefit? You don't have to worry about cooking a can lined with BPA, or, worse, risk having the can explode due to heat. And because we cook our dulce de leche in Mason jars, you can stir in whatever flavorings (vanilla, salt, cinnamon, just for starters) that you want before cooking.