This rich, caramely sweet is known by many names: dulce de leche in much of South and Central America; cajeta in Mexico and Nicaragua; arequipe in Columbia; manjar in Chile, Ecuador and Panama; and manjar blanco in Peru. Its origins are obscure. But it is essentially the same everywhere: slow-cooked sweetened milk, reduced down to a thick caramel pudding consistency.
This is my favorite manjar blanco recipe – it’s simple and straightforward, and I’ve found it to be consistent. The key is low, steady heat and frequent stirring. Use it as a spread, a filling, or – if you don’t reduce it quite as much – a dessert sauce.
- Condensed milk 2 cans (28 oz.)
- Evaporated milk 2 cans (24 oz.)
- Baking soda 1 tsp.
- Vanilla extract 1 tsp.
- Combine milks and soda in a high, heavy copper-bottomed saucepot two to three larger than the amount of liquid.
- Bring to low boil over medium heat, whisking constantly (soda will foam over!).
- Reduce to very low heat; whisk until foaming ceases and volume falls.
- Continue to cook, stirring very frequently; watch for scorching.
- Reduce by at least one-third to one-half volume. Cook to a medium caramel color (about 45 minutes to1 hour).
- Be careful when it begins to color, because it will turn very dark very quickly.
- Manjar blanco is ready when the mixture stays separated for a few seconds when a wooden spoon is dragged across bottom of the pan.
- Alternately, you can take a small spoonful out and allow it to cool, in order to determine if it has reached the desired thickness.
- Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.
- Cool completely in pot, stirring occasionally.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature, or use immediately.
- Re-crystallizes very easily; do not refrigerate or reheat.
- Chocolate: stir in 1 oz. butter and ¼ cup sifted cocoa (or 1-2 ounces chopped dark chocolate) when removing from heat.
- If making sauce: don’t reduce quite as much; and add 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup with the vanilla.
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Recipe by Jennifer Ramos Lorson.