Discovering Dulce de Leche in South America
One of my favourite things about travelling the world is discovering new foods. Arriving on the South American continent I became aware of a product called Dulce de Leche. I had never heard of if before and didn't hear the name for the first time until a few days into my trip. I was talking to a guy from North America who said he was frustrated by the fact that he can't find Dulce de Leche in Colarado and that he thought it would go down a storm in the US. That got me thinking, and for that rest of that day I saw Dulce de Leche everywhere I looked: on the shelves of the hostel kitchen; on billboard advertisements; on the dessert menu of the restaurant I went too that evening and listed as an ice cream flavour in the Heladeria.
So the next day, after arriving in Argentina, I went out to buy me some Dulce de Leche. I was surprised at the amount of choice on offer and was immediately bamboozled. It ranged from the very cheap to the very experience although I had no idea what made a good, or a bad, Dulce de Leche. Not being one to go for the cheapest I went for a pot at the lower-middle end of the market.
How to Eat it?
Well, that I haven't quite figured out yet. Some of the pots in the store showed it being spread on toast, So, that was what I tried first (after dipping a spoon in and tasting it that way of course!). I made some toast and spread on the sticky, brown paste. It didn't do it for me. Not that I didn't like the cream, I really liked it, but it just didn't seem to work on toast.
For my next experiment I thought I'd make some pancakes and try it as a pancake topping. Now, I can normally stomach half a dozen pancakes with either lemon and sugar, honey or Nutella. I'll be the first to admit that I have a very sweet tooth. However, I couldn't have more than 2 pancakes. It was good, but just too damn sweet!
For my next experiment I was kind of forced to experiment out of necessity. Being on a travellers budget I had a pack of porridge oats as it was useful for cheap but wholesome and filling nourishment, However, I'd ran out of sugar and couldn't find any in the hostel kitchen. So, in went a teaspoon of the Dulce de Leche. Fail!
In between these first few experiments and eating it by the spoonful straight out of the pot I ran out of my first batch of Dulce de Leche. It was in Uruguay where I bought my next pot. I may have made a mistake here though as I opted for the cheapest pot. This new pot takes sweetness to a whole new level. I bought a plain croissant for breakfast and added a nice little slither of Dulce. Verdict: well, I still feel a little sick from that experiment.
You can use dulce de leche to sweeten pretty much anything. I favourite of mine is to include it in my homemade chocolate milkshakes. I use whole milk; one ripe banana; pure cocoa powder; coconut oil; and a spoon of dulce de leche. Put it all in a blender / smoothie maker and I promise you will taste the best chocolate milkshake you have ever tasted!
It works well in hot chocolate too.
I thought go in a slightly different direction for my next taste experiment: try it in liquid form. So, I made a cup of coffee and instead of adding my usual 2 sugars I added a teaspoon of Dulce de Leche. And here I found my favourite way to enjoy Dulce de Leche. Result! Only it isn't really a result. If I'm honest I still prefer my coffee with sugar. I feel like I've failed. What is it that the South Americans love so much about this rich, creamy goo? Perhaps I'll never know. Perhaps that's just fine.
However, on a recent bus journey the company handed out some soft biscuit-like cakes. These were really, really good. When I looked at the ingredients I realised that the gooey layer was in fact Dulce de Leche. So, from now on, I'll skip buying the pots of goo and just buy these cakes instead.
Where to get it
Unfortunately I've not found Dulce de Leche for sale in UK supermarkets although rather randomly I have seen it for sale in some of the more budget shops like pound / 99c shops. Naturally it's available all over South America, especially in Argentina where entire sections are devoted to it. The price can vary dramatically too. I was buying the cheap stuff (ie $2 for a pot) as I had a very small budget whereas some of the more luxury pots were selling for more than $10 each.
If you can't find though, I recently found out how it's made. All it is is a can of sweetened condensed milk with the water extracted. I actually found a recipe here on our very own hubpages. Why not give it a go? Enjoy!
© 2012 Matt Doran