Hello again, after (another) long hiatus! I have been so thrilled to watch Peruvian cuisine gain attention and interest over the last year. I always knew that once the creativity, simple elegance, and intriguing combination of history and fusion behind this fabulous cuisine came to light, the world couldn’t help but stand up and take note!
Today, I’m revisiting manjar blanco, one of my all-time favorite sweets. (Click here for my original post.) It is ubiquitous in Latin America (and especially popular in Argentina and Peru): each country and region has its own name and variation – dulce de leche, arequipa, etc. It can be made with goat’s milk (as in Mexican cajeta), or coconut milk; but most versions are made with cow’s milk.
Manjar blanco is a culinary workhorse. Cook it a little less, and it becomes a rich sauce to drizzle over ice cream, crêpes, or any favorite dessert. Reduce it longer, and it can be piped into alfajores; spread in a pionono (a Peruvian jelly roll); or formed into tejas, a Peruvian truffle confection. It is also the base for suspiro de limeña, one of the most heavenly desserts on earth.
More about suspiro another time. But here’s a teaser. 😉
Manjar blanco can be a little tricky. The main issue I’ve had is occasional graininess, especially after a day or two (refrigerated or not). Any suggestions?
I’ve seen some fresh milk recipes floating around. The ones that look more reliable advocate for four parts milk to one part sugar, by volume; high heat to boil quickly, then very low heat (and constant attention) for several hours. I did try this once. Frankly, I don’t have an entire day to devote to making condensed milk – THEN turning it into manjar blanco – when that hard work has already been done for me. (I know, all-natural, homemade, no shortcuts, etc. etc…. but I’m picking my battles here. I mean, we are making milk candy, not an organic salad, people! 🙂 That said, I’d like to make fresh goat’s milk cajeta sometime.) If you have had success with this method before, though, will you please share your results? Maybe I’ll change my tune.
Just say no to microwave manjar blanco. That’s all I’m saying.
Anyway… I generally make manjar blanco two ways. My favorite is my usual, tried-and-true method: slow-cooking condensed and evaporated milks. Every once in awhile, I’ll cook it in the unopened can (in other words, under presssure). I haven’t yet tried to make it in an actual pressure cooker – I’m fatally clumsy, and not fond of explosions. But this looks like a good recipe; I may try it sometime, if I’m ever feeling adventurous.
(An aside: Want some cool info about food science, the Maillard reaction, and dulce de leche? Click here, and here.)
Manjar blanco cooked in the can is smooth and perfect. It has little to no separated milk solids, and is completely slick and shiny. Also, there is practically no work involved: I simply make sure the water level stays high. It’s relatively thin, which makes it great as a dessert sauce. While the caramel flavor is good, it’s fairly neutral to me. And it looks a little too perfect, even store-bought.
Manjar blanco cooked in a pot requires much more care. You have to stir frequently, and watch for scorching. It does generally have some milk solid and caramel specks in it, so it’s not as smooth-looking as can-cooked manjar blanco; but I find this does not affect the texture or mouth-feel. I personally greatly prefer it. You can reduce it to the consistency you want; and it has that deep caramel flavor, that butterscotch fragrance… it’s just ambrosial.
Here, you can see the difference:
Left: manjar blanco cooked in the pot.
Center: manjar blanco cooked in the can.
Right: caramel-flavored condensed milk, cooked in the can. (The fake caramel flavor was so gross – not even worth mentioning.)
I haven’t really changed my original manjar blanco recipe; I’ve just added some more cooking details and a few helpful tips. Experiment, and let me know which works best for you!
- 1can condensed milk(14 oz.)
The can must be completely smooth, with no dents; otherwise, the can could explode.
It is extremely important to make sure the water never runs low. If the water is allowed to evaporate to the point that the can is exposed to air and not completely submerged, the change in temperature / pressure may cause the can to explode.
The can must always be covered with at least 2” of water; so it’s best to simply keep the pot filled. Be sure to check the water level at least every 15-20 minutes (set a timer!), and add hot water whenever necessary (it’s helpful to have a hot pot of water at the ready, and ladle in extra water as needed). Keeping a tight lid on the pot will help prevent evaporation.
|1 pint (approx.)||5 minutes|
- 1can condensed milk(14 oz.)
- 1can evaporated milk(12 oz.)
- 1/8tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
Manjar blanco keeps for 3-4 days at room temperature, and longer than a week in the refrigerator. (However, it is more likely to re-crystallize and become grainy if refrigerated.)