You haven’t truly lived until you take a bite out of a slice of fresh crusty bread topped with this delicious milk caramel spread called doce de leite. Now, is that an attention grabbing sentence or what?!!! But it is pretty close to the truth! I kid you not.
Everyone here in the US calls this dulce de leche. Doce de leite and dulce de leche are Portuguese and Spanish respectively for “milk candy” or “milk sweet”. It can come as a milk caramel spread like this, a chewy plastic-wrapped caramel candy, or a square-cut confection with the consistency of fudge. We call them all doce de leite because they are all based on a milk caramel as opposed to straight caramel, which is made from sugar. Although I like them all, I do have a soft spot (no pun intended) for the spread. It is SO yummy!
When I was a girl growing up in Brazil, we had freshly made, warm crusty rolls from the neighborhood padaria (bakery) every morning on the breakfast table. We would eat them with butter, cheese and ham. Or with requeijão (a creamier Brazilian version of cream cheese, in a jar). Or with this milk caramel spread. Any leftover bread from breakfast was used to make sandwiches that we would take for school lunches. Yeah, going low-carb was pretty tough for this Brazilian. We do so love our bread!
But back to the doce de leite.
It can be used in so many ways! Spread it on bread, apples, anything you want, really. Add it to cookie recipes, or use it as a filling for layered cakes. Shoot, I’ve seen plenty of savory recipes that include doce de leite.
And it is not only versatile, it is a cinch to make. This is a seriously easy recipe. I’m talking one ingredient, one pan, one singular moment of bliss when you taste it.
Let’s make this easy milk caramel spread
Told ya. One ingredient.
Of course, you can make if from scratch with milk and sugar. But using sweetened condensed milk is so much fast and easier. You can use any brand, actually. They should all work. I just keep this brand in the house because I feel it makes better brigadeiros.
And to make it even faster, use a pressure cooker. You don’t have to. But if you don’t, it could take 3 hours or more in a regular pot.
If you are using a pressure cooker, remove the label from the can. This step is not as important if you are using a regular pot. But making this in Brazil, I was always warned about the paper and adhesive coming loose and potentially gumming up the release valve on the pressure cooker.
After removing the label, you can use the rough side of a sponge under warm running water to remove as much of the label adhesive as possible.
Then, place the can in the pressure cooker and cover it with water. The can must be completely covered DURING THE ENTIRE COOKING PROCESS. So no less than two fingers worth of water over the can.
Then seal the pressure cooker, set it on a burner set to medium heat, and wait for the hissing, which indicates that pressure has built inside. Set a timer for 20 minutes from when the pan starts making noise.
After 20 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the pan from the burner, and turn the release valve to remove the pressure from the pan. Next, open the pressure cooker and use a pair of tongs or a canning jar lifter to lift the can out of the hot water and allow it to cool completely.
I will repeat ALLOW THE CAN TO COOL COMPLETELY BEFORE OPENING. The caramel is very runny while hot. It has expanded in the can, and there is a lot of built-in pressure. If you try to open the can while the contents are hot or even warm, you will have an explosion of caramel in your kitchen. Seriously, you might get burned. So, ALLOW THE CAN TO COOL COMPLETELY BEFORE OPENING!
Being impatient, I fill one side of my sink with enough cold water to cover the can and let it sit there for about and hour or so.
Once cooled, open the can and look at your beautiful milk caramel! Ok. It doesn’t look so pretty, huh? It actually looks like a bit of an industrial by-product. But that’s only until you stir it all up.
Once you stir it up, you get a rich, creamy, glossy milk caramel spread. I keep mine in a canning jar. It is both large enough to hold a can’s worth, and it has a large enough opening to facilitate scooping out the caramel with a butter knife or spatula.
Note: if you want a thicker, more dense caramel, cook it longer in the pressure cooker. You can experiment and add 5 minutes the next time you make it.
I’ve already said “rich, creamy, glossy”. But now I have to add delicious, amazing, and decadent. And also addictive, sinful, and indulgent.
It’s just perfection when spread on fresh bread for breakfast or as a snack. Pair it with a hot cup of strong coffee and it is even more heavenly. And that’s just one way to consume this beautiful spread. I bet you all can come up with plenty of creative ways to use doce de leite. So if you do, drop me a note on this post and share. I love hearing from you!
- 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- Remove the label and the label adhesive from the can of sweetened condensed milk. This is necessary to prevent any paper or adhesive from potentially gumming up the pressure cooker's release valve.
- Place the can in a pressure cooker and cover with water, to a minimum of 2 fingers over the can.
- Seal the pressure cooker and turn it to pressure mode.
- Place on a burner over medium heat and cook until the pan starts to hiss, indicating the buildup of pressure.
- Once the hissing starts, set a timer for 20 minutes.
- When the 20 minutes are up, turn off the burner and turn the release valve to allow the pressure and steam to escape the pan.
- When the pressure has been released, open the pressure cooker and, using a set of tongs or a canning lifter, lift the can out of the pan.
- DO NOT OPEN THE CAN UNTIL IT IS COMPLETELY COOLED. The milk caramel will be liquid and very hot. This creates pressure in the can. If it is not completely cooled, the contents of the can could spray and potentially cause burns, not to mention make quite a mess. I cool mine in a sink full of cold water.
- Open the can after it has cooled and transfer the milk caramel to a glass container with a lid for storage.
- Use as a spread over bread or fruits (such as apples or bananas).