Dulce de Leche
Previous reviewers' frustration with this recipe is probably the fault of a certain vagueness in the directions.
Dulce de leche is essentially a jelly based on milk instead of fruit juice; the liquid needs to be reduced to about half its original volume. It will foam up considerably when first reaching an active simmer, and again when the baking soda is added. After that, it will be relatively well-behaved for a while and the heat can be turned up, though constant stirring will still be needed to keep the bottom from burning. When it's nearly ready, it will suddenly get very foamy again (if you have a jelly/deepfry thermometer, this will be at about 220 F). After that, you can keep testing small samples on a chilled plate to see how much it stiffens up; if you evaporate it too far down, you may end up with something more like soft fudge-- still perfectly edible, but perhaps not what you had in mind.
I'm not sure why this recipe suggests chilling the dulce de leche *before* placing in jelly jars, which seems like an invitation for trouble of various kinds. For a start, it's much easier to scrape it out when it's still hot. One last cleanup note-- instead of tossing the sticky pot into the sink to soak off the caramel you couldn't scrape out, pour a bit of plain milk into it and gently reheat it on the stove while stirring. Hey presto: caramel-sweet
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Sep. 4, 2002