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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Caramel Lovers' Nirvana

Dulce de leche (DOOL say day LAY chay) has become a vibrant part of American gastronomy.  Long before Haagen-Dazs introduced its dulce de leche flavored ice cream in 1997, I was head-over-heels in love with this seductive caramel-like sauce.  Starbucks jumped on the culinary bandwagon shortly afterwards when it began offering dulce de leche coffee.  In the last 15 years it seems like everyone from famous Michelin star chefs to America’s Girl Scouts (who introduced cookies with dulce de leche in 2009) have been enticed with the ethereal edible.

Made from cow’s milk and sugar that has been slowly cooked over hours, dulce de leche is an art form in South America.  It is served everywhere…and on everything from simple morning toast to cookies.  Elaborate cakes can be filled with it…or topped with it.  Children are often served the spread on crackers as an after-school snack.  Dulce de leche candy is sold in every store and at every street kiosk.  It can accompany a pie on the side, or can be incorporated within.  One of my faves, however, is right out of the jar with nothing else!

While dulce de leche is thought to have originated in Argentina, other South American countries, including Chile and Uruguay, claim birth rights. Other historical sources contend that it may have come from India thousands of years ago.  Moreover, many other countries in the world have their own versions.  France, for example, has confiture de lait.  Mexico’s rendition (made from goat’s milk) is called cajeta

Regardless of the origin, like many recipes, dulce de leche is thought to have been created by an accident when milk and sugar were left on the stove too long.  Those of you who will be joining Wine-Knows in Chile and Argentina in March 2013 will have numerous opportunities to sample this yummy culinary mishap.

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