Friday, May 08, 2009
Dulce de Leche (Caramelized Condensed Milk) - a Prelude to Yema
I vaguely remember a time when I was a child when my Nanay cooked ONE whole unopened can of condensed milk in boiling water for HOURS...I asked her, "What are you making?" and she answered, quite excitedly with a twinkle in her eyes, "Yema." So I waited eagerly....for a loooooong time. Then finally, the cooking was done. My Nanay opened the can of brown "yema" then she poured the contents off into a bowl. My initial (unspoken) reaction was,"Why was it runny?" because I knew yema was solid but chewy soft enough...like soft candy...so what was this brown syrup? But not wanting to displease my Nanay, who so eagerly placed some into a sliced pandesal, and onto a spoon, and handed to me for tasting, I feigned excitement and tasted the 'treat'...and was I so delightfully surprised...YEMA nga!!!! at least in taste. Mmmmm...I ate a lot!
My Nanay only made it once, probably she was also just experimenting based on a friend's directions, then probably got disappointed with the long cooking time that she never made it again, but I would never forget that time.
Only lately did I learn that the proper term for this runny form of yema was DULCE DE LECHE. My Venezuelan co-worker, knowing I enjoy cooking, asked if I like condensed milk-based desserts, and she mentioned dulce de leche, which I asked her to describe how it was prepared...and I could imagine my Nanay back on that particular day...So now, not having the time to spare (and not really eager to spend that much energy on long cooking in these days of aiming for sustainable living by using less fossil fuels), I searched for the recipe online, and for tips/methods to prepare this in the most efficient, energy-saving, and greenest (as in earth-friendly) way I could. I thought it best to do the pressure cooking for at least 5 cans per batch. (And as I mentioned in the past post on yema, I could use the microwave for preparing one can of condensed milk into yellowish yema).
What you need:
pressure cooker or microwave
How many cans you want to prepare depends on you and the capacity of your pressure cooker.
Peal the label off the can of sweetened condensed milk. Put in a pressure cooker with enough water to come 2/3 up the can ( or cans ) of condensed milk. DO NOT OPEN THE CAN(S) at all. Seal on the lid and pressure cook for 45-60 minutes (depending on how runny or gel-like you want it), longer for darker and thicker dulce. The pressure in and out of the cans is equalized by the pressure cooker. Release pressure and let cool COMPLETELY before attempting to open one can (the pressure you released was that of the water and air inside the pan, not inside the can. If you take out a hot can and open it right away, the content might suddenly explode because of higher pressure compared to the cool air, much in the same way air and steam escapes quickly when you open the release valve of pressure cooker. You now have SEALED cans of dulce de leche that will keep as long as the original cans uncooked. You may want to eat this as is, or as filling for rolls, or (if runny) as topping for pies or ice cream. Make it thicker (using microwave or by longer pressure cooking time) and you come up with YEMA that is brown in color (optional to add butter and or sugar), the yema that I knew from childhood, wrapped into pyramids with a cellophane. My sons love it, plain or as palaman. (Come ice cream season, I will make a runny batch for topping.)
Microwave Method (ideal for making only one can)
Place in a big microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, then stir. Microwave for 30 sec to 1 minute or until you see it start to bubble and rise, then stir. Microwave in increments of 30 seconds or less, and stir before it bubbles over the bowl. Repeatedly do the same until you get a good consistency although it may still be yellowish (or light brown). Use oven mitts to protect your hands from heat!
Let cool before you eat.