Dulce de Leche Recipe

Dulce de Leche Caramelized Milk Recipe

You know you’re on the right track if your most trusted recipe sources agree on procedures for classics such as this one. This recipe for dulce de leche, a thick caramelized milk sauce essential in South American desserts, is adapted from Alton Brown, Saveur, and Wayne Gisslen.

While the instructions and cooking times differ slightly, all three sources agree on the use of baking soda, a key ingredient which may be a bit unexpected. The baking soda tips the slight acidity of milk towards alkalinity. This is important for two reasons (excuse me while I put on my lab coat):

  • Alkalinity keeps milk proteins from curdling
    For the same reason adding vinegar to milk makes cheese, mildly acidic milk, along with heat, may cause grittiness when milk proteins solidify. Adding the baking soda controls curdling to a certain degree, giving you a smoother dulce de leche.
  • Alkalinity helps with browning
    Since dulce de leche is all about caramelization, a little help with getting that deep brown hue can’t hurt. One reason pretzels and bagels are boiled in a lye solution is the alkalinity of the liquid — it helps brown the crust while baking.

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Cranberry-Walnut Bread

Cranberry Walnut Bread Sliced

Heavy on cranberries and walnuts, bejeweled strips of dough barely held itself together as I tried to make a braid out of it. It didn’t seem like the freshly kneaded ball could take the large amount of dried fruits and nuts, but sure enough, everything came together as advertised after a few folds.

As you can clearly see in Exhibit A above, the result is a fruit-nutty equivalent of Chips Ahoy! (a chocolate chip in every bite). What isn’t quite obvious from the photo is the essential scent of orange extract that pulls everything together.

Citrus and cranberries have a natural affinity, so much so that Trader Joe’s decided to package both as orange-flavored cranberries, easily my favorite TJ foodstuff. It must be pretty popular because it’s been around for a while — TJ products are quickly dropped if they don’t fly off the shelves fast enough.

I use orange-flavored cranberries anywhere regular dried cranberries are needed. It’s not bad for light snacking, too. The only bad thing about it is I’d forgotten what cranberries are supposed to taste like.

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Lenguas de Gato – “Cat’s Tongue” Cookies

Lenguas de Gato Cookies

It wasn’t easy growing up the youngest of five siblings. My three older man-brothers took it upon themselves to toughen up my prepubescent self when I got too good at Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. Sore thumbs abruptly turned into sore everything when boxing gloves and elbows in the solar plexus during intense games of pickup basketball followed. All I ever wanted to do was mash buttons and beat the Hi Score.

When things got extra harsh, my sister always had my back. Whereas one word from her and the brothers listen, any time I made so much as a peep, I end up in a headlock. Not even having my own armpit hair at the time, the prickly-moist sensation against the back of my neck was extra disgusting.

My sister and I have a little bond, you see. Since I’m the youngest and she’s the only daughter, we’re automatically the darling family favorites, and we knew how to take advantage of that. Obsessed with Hello Kitty and all things feline, my sister often asked for lenguas de gato, or “cat’s tongue” cookies, as pasalubong from our parents. Sometimes we would lock ourselves in my sister’s room, far away from brotherly physical abuse, with a boxful of the crisp and buttery treats.

The burnt edges and pale center instantly melt in your mouth, giving the cookie an unexpected complex taste considering the simplicity of the recipe. Of course, my sister and I didn’t really know or care about the wonders of caramelization back then. We just thought lenguas de gato were good and addictive.

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Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Chocolate Brownie Cookies

These cookies were originally dubbed “Chocolate Indulgence” before I decided to call it something less cryptic. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s sure to satisfy the worst cravings for chocolate.

The cookies somehow combine the best qualities of brownies and french macarons into one. The center remains soft, moist, and chewy like brownies but the lightly crisp edges and tops are reminiscent of macarons. The cookies are dense and light at the same time, if that makes any sense at all.

Preparing the cookies is a mix of techniques from making brownies and macarons. The mixing method is normally used for making brownie batter. Once portioned into rounds, a skin is allowed to form by leaving the unbaked mounds uncovered for a half hour, giving it a thin eggshell crust after baking.

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Green Tea and Red Rice Swirl Bread

Green Tea Red Rice Bread Sliced

Green tea and red rice add more than color and an East Asian twist to this soft bread loaf. Lightly enriched with sugar, butter, and an egg yolk, the subtle tastes of both ingredients pull through along with their many nutritional benefits.

The health benefits of green tea are well-documented, but red rice may be a bit unusual depending on your location. It is mainly used as a natural coloring agent in Chinese cuisine and as a dietary supplement known to control cholesterol. I consider this bread a tasty way to recover from sugar and chocolate eating sprees.

I meant to join Boaz’s Bread Baking Day for colorful breads but it got buried under a ton of unfinished posts. All three of them. I’m blaming all that sugar I’ve been having lately.

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