My first memory of dulce de leche was when I was a little kid in Teresópolis, a city north of Rio de Janeiro. I was probably 6 or 8 years old, and my mother used to buy dulce de leche from a farm on the way to the country-house. A jar never lasted long, as my brother and I would indulge in the sweet and dispute the very last spoon.
Making dulce de leche is a delicious process of cooking milk and sugar over low heat for a few hours, until it thickens to the consistency of chocolate sauce.
It can also be done by cooking a can of sweetened condensed milk in water, or in a pressure cooker, until the milk turns brown. The can must be entirely submurged in a gentle simmering water through out the whole cooking process.
Argentina, Uruguay and Spain have exported some incredible brands of dulce de leche to the world, and while there is a bit of rivalry between who created the sweet (Brazilias clain the fame, and so does Argetina), the fact is, all through South America, dulce de leche is a serious subject. In recent years, it has expanded its reach way beyond the south, and captured the heart and stomach of the entire globe.
One of my favorite ways of eating dulce de leche is with churros, the latin fried dough, piped into hot oil, and rolled in cinnamon sugar. This is street food at its best. Dulce de leche is inserted through a thin tube and slowly stuffed all the way through the inside of the hot churros. It’s simply irresistable!!
On a recent trip to Brazil, I bought a jar home and made a delicious tart to a dinner party. It was a hit! Here is the recipe, adapted from Pies and Tarts by author Kristina Petersen Migoya
Dulce de Leche Tart
For the Dough:
½ cup (1stick) unsalted butter
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
For the Filling:
1¼ cups heavy cream
1/3 cup milk
1 cup dulce de leche
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of Salt
1 whole egg
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Equipment: one 9-inch tart pan
- Make The Dough: In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until well combined, 4-5 minutes.
- Add the egg and continue beating, scrape down the sides of the bowl at least once, until the mixture is well blended, 3 to 4 minutes.
- In another bowl, mix the flour, cornstarch and salt. Turn off the mixer, and add to the butter/egg mixture. Pulse the mixer until just combined. Don’t over mix.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8-inch thickness and fit into the tart mold, pressing evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan trying to have the smoothest dough as possible (you will be filling with a liquid custard, so any wholes can be problematic). Chill for another 20 minutes.
- Blind Bake the Dough: Pre-heat the oven to 350˚F. Line the chilled crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights (or dry beans). Bake the crust until it is a matte, pale, golden color, about 15 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights and return to oven until it’s golden all over, another 10 minutes (edges will look a little darker than center, that’s ok). Remove from the oven and cool completely. Dough has a tendency to shrink during baking time, that’s normal.
- To Make the Filling: In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream, milk, ¼ cup of the dulce de leche and bring to a simmer, whisking until dulce de leche has melted completely.
- In another bowl, combine sugar, salt, egg, egg yolks and vanilla extract; whisk until creamy and smooth.
- Pour the cream mixture into the egg mixture in a steady stream, whisking constantly.
- Reduce the temperature of the oven to 325˚F. Carefully pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake until the filling is just slightly woobly at the center, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove tart from the oven and cool on a rack for at least 1 hour.
- In a small saucepan, heat the remaining ¾ cup dulce de leche over low heat, until smooth and melted (depending on the brand you use, you might want to add a tablespoon or so of water, or heavy cream). Immediately pour the melted dulce de leche over the tart and spread nicely with an off set spatula, covering the entire surface.
- Chill the tart for at least 1 hour until the dulce de leche is firm. You can prepare this tart up to 2 days ahead of time, and bring to rom temperature about 20 minutes before serving.