For many years, I thought dulce de leche in a can was an urban legend. When I finally put it to the test, I kicked myself for not having tried it sooner. It's truly amazing what a can of sweetened condensed milk becomes when you boil it, unopened, for a couple hours. Hard to believe, but the best way to make dulce de leche is also the easiest way. —Rivka
can sweetened condensed milk, unopened
big, tall pot filled 2/3 of the way with warm water
Peel the label off the can of sweetened condensed milk. Do not open the can. Position the can in the water so that it's propped up on the tin foil ball. If the can is sitting flat in the pot, it will rattle incessantly for two hours, which kills the buzz of this dessert. If you have canning supplies that hold cans still in the water, you can use those instead of the tin foil.
Fill the pot with water so that the water level covers the can by at least an inch. Plunk the can into the pot to check, then remove.
Set the pot over high heat and bring to a boil; once the water is boiling, add the can, and turn the heat down to medium high, bringing the water to a simmer. The can should be standing on one side, not rolling around.
Now, I noticed that the can tends to make a lot of noise as the bubbles from the boiling water try to escape from beneath it. One trick, if you happen to have two pairs of tongs lying around, is to prop the can on a tilt by sticking a small ball of tin foil underneath it. This stops the noise.
Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. When water is boiling, uncover pot. Leave the can in the simmering water for at least 2 hours (longer for a firmer caramel — I left it in for 3), and make sure to replenish the water as often as you need to in order to keep the water level at least an inch or so above the can. I had to add about a cup every half hour to 45 minutes.
When 2 hours (or your desired cooking time) have elapsed, turn off the heat and leave the can in the water for at least half an hour, to cool slightly. If you were to remove it immediately, the heat inside the can would overpower the air pressure surrounding it, and it would explode.
After 30-45 minutes, remove the can with tongs; if it’s not too hot to touch, you can open it with a can opener. Dulce de leche will start oozing out as you open the can, and you should feel free to — ahem — clean it up. With your fingers. And then try it.
I'm a healthcare consultant by day, food blogger by night, and I make a mean veggie chili. I'm eat a mostly-vegetarian diet, but have a soft spot for meat, especially braised short ribs. And this profile wouldn't be complete without an admission that I absolutely am addicted to cookies and chocolate. Finally, I love the idea of food52 and can't wait to share and read my and others' favorite recipes!