This rich, caramelly confection 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. It possibly began as a Spanish/Moor-inspired recipe of cooked milk or almond milk, sugar, rice, and sometimes chicken or fish.
In French cuisine, its counterpart is blancmange, a milk gelatin dessert similar to pannacotta. But it evolved into a gelatinized, almond-based sweet in Spanish cuisine; and then was altered again by each Latin American cuisine it entered. Most Latin American versions have a similar theme: 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. Its primary use in Peruvian cuisine is as a filling for alfajores.
- 28oz. condensed milk(2 cans)
- 24oz. evaporated milk(2 cans)
- 1tsp. baking soda
- 1tsp. vanilla extract
Despite the baking soda, manjar blanco can re-crystallize 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.