Remember what I told you about dulce de leche in my post on 10-Minute Dulce de Leche Cheat Sauce? That dulce de leche is typically one of those things that just need time to cook, otherwise you will end up with an entirely different end product?
Well, this is the fastest way to make proper dulce de leche. Thick, pudding-like dulce de leche that has a complex but oh-so-delicious flavor and a gorgeously golden color. That kind of dulce de leche! My kind of dulce de leche! The stuff I enjoy eating straight out of the can!
This is dulce de leche made in a pressure cooker!
Oh, and when I say ‘this is the fastest way to make this’ I don’t mean that making dulce de leche this way won’t take a lot of time. I know, very confusing, but like I said: making dulce de leche fast is impossible!
É impossível. Entendido?
That was just a little Google Translate Portuguese for ‘It’s impossible. Understood?’, for those of you who were wondering what I was blabbing about…
Anyway, this dulce de leche is delicious. Like the dulce de leche made in the can, in the oven or in a double boiler, it is cooked in a water bath. This means that the Maillard reaction takes control over the depth of flavor and the amazing creamy texture of this dulce de leche.
Remember about the Maillard reaction? It is what makes dulce de leche dreamy. In fact, it’s what makes dulce de leche possible!
Just to recap: caramelization refers to the caramelizing of sugars in the absence of protein. When you’re making caramel, you’re caramelizing. In most cases, caramelization requires a temperature of 160°C/320°F. The Maillard reaction refers to the caramelization/browning of sugars in the presence of protein, such as milk. When you’re toasting bread, you’re Maillard-ing. When you’re baking cookies, you’re Maillard-ing. And when you’re making dulce de leche – you guessed it – you’re also Maillard-ing. The Maillard reaction requires a lot less heat than actual caramelization, and when it comes to dulce de leche, this is where the brown color and deepened flavor come from.
For more info, check out my post on the 10-Minute Dulce de Leche Cheat Sauce…
Anyway, the reason why cooking dulce de leche takes such a long time, is because of the Maillard reaction, which is considerably slower than actual caramelization.
Cooking dulce de leche in the can takes 4 hours, cooking it in a double boiler about the same and cooking it in the oven, well, also takes about that much time. Of course, how long the dulce de leche needs to be cooked depends on how dark you want your dulce de leche to be. I’ve seen people raving about ridiculously pale – as in: sweetened-condensed-milk-kind-of-pale – dulce de leche on youtube, but I like mine dark. Very dark! And this takes time.
But you can speed things up in a pressure cooker!
About a week ago, I received a few comments from different readers who had read early posts of my ‘Making Dulce de Leche’ series and who advised me to use a pressure cooker to make it. They told me that cooking dulce de leche in a pressure cooker may take only 20 minutes of cooking time, depending on how dark you want your dulce de leche to be.
I was intrigued!
The only problem was, I didn’t have a pressure cooker. Nor did anyone I know have one. Luckily, there are these great online ‘Borrow from Your Neighbor’ sites these days that enable you to borrow stuff from neighbors you didn’t even know you had! Within 15 minutes, the site I registered with linked me to a friendly neighbor who was kind enough to entrust me with her pressure cooker. I could pick it up straight away!
Talking about fast!
It smelled a little of beets (she had warned me about that!) but it did a great job! The dulce de leche was perfectly puddingy, gorgeously golden and ridiculously delicious and it only took 40 minutes to cook! Sounds fast, right? Well, that’s because it is! If I had cooked the can in a normal pan, it would have taken me 6 times longer!
However, it is important that you start with cold water and allow the water – and the can – to slowly come to temperature. This takes time, but when I tried plunging the can in boiling water to speeds things up, the sweetened, condensed milk in the center of the can hadn’t colored at all. It’s also important to allow the can to cool to room temperature, as it continues to cook/brown as it cools. Again, this takes time, but no matter how you want to make dulce de leche, there’s no way to speed up the cooling process without negatively affecting the taste/texture/color of the dulce de leche!
So is this method faster?
Absolutely! And very economical too!
Does it take a lot of time to make dulce de leche this way?
Well, yes. That too…
Anyway, when I returned the pressure cooker to my neighbor the following day, I made sure I thanked her with a can of dulce de leche, still a little warm from the cooker…
- 1 can of sweetened, condensed milk
- Place the can of sweetened, condensed milk directly onto the bottom of the pressure cooker and add cold water, enough for the water level to come about 2½-cm (or 1-inch) over the top of the can (not exceeding the 'maximum capacity level' of the pressure cooker). Make sure the can is on its side, otherwise it will start bouncing up and down once the water comes to a boil.
- Lock on the lid and heat over high heat until the cooker starts to whistle to let you know it has reached pressure. Lower the heat, making sure the heat is still high enough for the pressure cooker to maintain the pressure.
- Cook for 40 minutes at high pressure (according to the manufacturer of my pressure cooker, the water in my pressure cooker reaches temperatures of 118°C/244°F under pressure).
- After 40 minutes, remove the pressure cooker from the heat and open the valve to allow the steam to escape and the pressure to come down. I placed the pressure cooker on the balcony for this because I like my kitchen wallpaper to stay on the walls...
- Once the pressure cooker unlocks, carefully pluck the hot can out of the (also very hot) water with some handy kitchen utensil, such as a fork or a slotted spoon. Place the can on a heatproof surface and allow to cool to room temperature before opening (or leave the can in the cooker and allow the water in the pressure cooker and the hot can to cool down together).
- Dulce de leche can be kept in the fridge for about 3 weeks, stored in an airtight container. Don't keep the dulce de leche in the can (once opened), as this can negatively affect the color of the dulce de leche. I've heard that you can keep closed cans of dulce de leche for years and years, but I haven't tried this and - honestly - I wouldn't be able to keep my hands off the stuff for that long!
- Dulce de leche can be softened in the bowl of a double boiler if its too stiff.