It all started with the bottle of Dulce de Leche which Gertrude of My Kitchen Snippets gave me in New York. I tweeted that I was looking for something to bake with the Caramel and that led to a tweeting marathone debating if Dulce de Leche and Caramel (cream based) are the same thing.
I have always made my Caramel by adding cream and butter to a boiling sugar syrup and when I started to see many fellow bloggers raving about the process of making Dulce de Leche with sweetened condensed milk in a can, I recall simply dismissing it as just another novel way of making caramel.
When Gertrude gave me the bottle, she had told me that she was a little amused that so many bloggers in Malaysia and Singapore are crazy about making Dulce de Leche and that I should try this original one from Argentina. I recall feeling a little confused at that point - not understanding why she had said that the original version is from Argentina. Later as I pondered, it started to make a little more sense. Dulce de Leche, is after all, the Spanish term for Milk Candy and it is completely probable that the term should have originated from a Spanish speaking/ influenced region. In fact, the first Dulce de Leche I tasted was from Mexico - made with goat's milk, it had a goaty smell which I have not learnt to appreciate.
Many years later, when I learnt to make my own cream based caramel, I started to use the terms Caramel and Dulce de Leche interchangeably.... though I have to admit that Dulce de Leche does sound so much more exotic, myseterious and... gourmet. The process of making Dulce de Leche, which involves cooking and reducing a mixture of sugar and milk until the sugar caramelises, is basic and straight forward. Caramel cream, on the other hand calls for caramelising the sugar in water first before the milk component is added. To give it more body and smoothness, butter is often also added. To me both methods have the same essential components. Milk, after all is more than 80% water and less than 20% milk solids while cream, is just a version of milk that is higher in butter fat content. What differs is the process and my personal preference is the second method which gives me more control over how the sugar caramelises and absolves me from having to deal with curdling boiling milk.
Back to the bottle of Dulce de Leche from Argentina. Truly sensational in its balance of sweetness and body. It conjured up images of happy children.... and Quality Street's old-world-cellophane wrapped fudgy toffees....
I found this cookie recipe in Tish Boyle's The Good Cookie (yes, again!). A very short almond based cookie, this is another keeper. I would be most content eating the cookie by itself with tea or coffee. Sandwiching and drizzling it with the silky smooth Dulce de Leche just elevated the indulgence to an even more gratifying level.
So thank you, Gert, for the sweet gift. I am looking forward to making more delicious treats with it!
Recipe : (Adapted from Tish Boyle's The Good Cookie)
1/2 cup Almond meal
1.5 cups All purpose flour
1/2 cup Corn starch
1/8 tsp Salt
225g Butter softened
1/4 cup Castor sugar
1/4 cup Powdered sugar
1/4 tsp Almond extract
3/4 cup Granulated sugar
3 tbsp water
1/3 cup Heavy cream
2 tbsp Unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1. Mix almond meal, corn starch, salt and flour together in a bowl.
2. In a cake mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until light in texture. (about 2 mins)
3. Add in almond extract. Lower mixing speed to low and add in flour mixture.
4. Scrape the dough onto a plastic food wrap. Flatten to form a disk and refrigerate for 2 hours.
5. Preheat oven to 175C.
6. Roll out dough to 1/8" thick and cut out cookie using a 1.5 inch fluted round cookie cutter. Using a 3/4" round cookie cutter, cut out the center of half of the cookies. Refrigerate for 5-15 mins if dough becomes too soft. ( I used a Linzer cookie cutter which makes it easier)
7. Bake cookies at 175C for 12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.
1. Spread Dulce de Leche / Caramel on to cookie and sandwich with another piece of cookie with the cut out center.
2. Placing some Dulce de Leche/ Caramel into a piping bag, cut a small hole at the tip of the bag and pipe drizzles of the caramel over the cookie.
1. In a small heavy saucepan, place sugar and water and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and cook without stirring and occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush until the syrup caramelizes and turn into a golden amber colour (about 4 minutes).
2. REmove the pan from the heat and carefully add in the heavy cream. Stir the bubbling mixture until smooth. Stir in butter and salt until the butter is melted. Cool caramel down until it is thick enough to spread.