Imagine a creamy, rich, brown caramel made from the simplest of ingredients -- milk and sugar -- and involving little more than a pot of boiling water and a couple hours. Hard to believe, but the best way to make dulce de leche is also the easiest way. And tell me you're not salivating as you eye the caramel I've got sitting in a jar in my fridge. This stuff is to die for, people.
Ingredients: 1 can sweetened condensed milk. Special equipment: 1 big, tall pot and lots of water
Peel the label of the can of sweetened condensed milk. Do not open the can. Fill the pot with water so that the water level covers the can by at least an inch. Plunk the can into the pot to check, then remove. Set the pot over high heat and bring to a boil; once the water is boiling, add the can, and turn the heat down to medium high, bringing the water to a simmer. The can should be standing on one side, not rolling around. Now, I noticed that the can tends to make a lot of noise as the bubbles from the boiling water try to escape from beneath it. One trick, if you happen to have two pairs of tongs lying around, is to prop the can on a tilt by sticking a small ball of tin foil underneath it. This stops the noise. Leave the can in the simmering water for at least 2 hours (longer for a firmer caramel -- I left it in for 3), and make sure to replenish the water as often as you need to in order to keep the water level above the can. I had to add about a cup every half hour to 45 minutes.
When 2 hours (or your desired cooking time) have elapsed, turn off the heat and leave the can in the water for at least half an hour, to cool slightly. If you were to remove it immediately, the heat inside the can would overpower the air pressure surrounding it, and it would explode.
After 30-45 minutes, remove the can with tongs; if it's not too hot to touch, you can open it with a can opener. Dulce de leche will start oozing out as you open the can, and you should feel free to -- ahem -- clean it up. With your fingers. And then try it. Gaahhh it's so good :)