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I knew there would be a problem with his first bite. It was a mere 26 years ago, in Boston, at Sol Azteca, a tiny Mexican restaurant with fiery dishes and pitchers of sangria.

Brian and I were having dessert and he had selected Bananas with Dolce de Leche and Walnuts. The recipe for that dish is my next post. It wasn’t the bananas or walnuts that got him: it was the dolce de leche, or DDL. He was addicted after one spoonful. The man has certain weaknesses.

DDL was uncommon then but is on the shelves of many supermarkets now. It’s brown, thick, intensely sweet and versatile beyond belief.

So, while you can buy it now, it’s really better fresh and uncontaminated by chemical preservatives. For a couple of decades there has been a way to make your own: fresh in the kitchen. Put a can of sweetened condensed milk in a pot of water. Get the water to boil and leave it alone for a few hours. And there’s the rub, how many hours? I have seen recommendations for 4, 5, even 8 hours. There are war-horror stories associated with this technique: cans exploding sending goop and shrapnel around the kitchen. No one wants a family tree that has the annotation: killed by condensed milk.

Explosions aside, the biggest problem with that method is quality control. With a sealed metal can, how do you know if the DDL is done, or overdone, or …

The experts at Fine Cooking have solved the problem entirely and their solution is absolutely foolproof and fantastic. Here is their wonderfully simple solution.

One note, this recipe gives you a lot of DDL: about 5 cups. The recipe calls for three 14-ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk. I believe part of the reason for that is you’ll be using a double boiler which typically is rather wide. One can would not cover the bottom of the pan very deeply and you want volume to prevent “hot” or “overdone” spots. Don’t worry, you’ll find uses for this DDL.

My understanding from Brian is that well made DDL is so viscous that it cannot be injected. I believe that he is working on a solution.


Dolce de Leche

Yield: 5 cups


  • 3 14-ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk [check the expiration date on each can and get the freshest you can find]



Fill the base pan of a double boiler halfway with water. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium for an active simmer.

Pour the condensed milk into the double boiler’s top insert and set it uncovered over the simmering water. Every 30 minutes, check the water level in the pan, replenishing as needed. And every 30 minutes, give the milk a stir. Removed from the heat once the milk has caramelized and thickened, 2 12/ to 3 hours.

At 2 ½ hours, our test batch was lovely, light caramel in color, and can be easily stirred. At 3 hours, we had a deeper color and a much more viscous product.

Source: Fine Cooking