We’ve pulled down all of the Christmas lights and packed up all the Christmas decorations. The mantle has been cleared of all of the cards sent to us by our loved ones. The goodies and leftovers are gone. The kitchen has been quiet for a week. It seems things have finally settled down and life’s returning back to normal.
One of my goals for the new year (not a resolution, mind you, because I don’t do those) is to find more ways to put a little good back into the world… to stretch “the season of giving” across all twelve months of the year. As I was thinking about this a few days ago, I stumbled onto a little meme over at Dine and Dish. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to get the ball rolling, so I signed up with Kristen and now… I’ll be sharing the meme here so that you, too, can play along. Here’s the deal…
Pay It Forward…
I will send a handmade gift to the first three people who leave a comment on this entry requesting to join this Paying It Forward Exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet, and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days… which is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.
See? Easy! And fun! And an excellent way to spread a little cheer even after the holidays are over.
And, in the spirit of sharing, I want to share with you a little something that I found over at Straight from the Farm. It’s the easiest… and most wonderful… dulce de leche recipe. No, my friends, this is not what you think. This is no slow cooked sweetened condensed milk. This is just a simple pairing of milk, sugar, and vanilla (and baking soda) that’s slowly reduced to a beautiful deep caramel treat that’s just as good by the spoonful as it is on a warm roll (or sandwiched into a cookie, or in your morning coffee, or on a cake… I could go on and on). And it’s perfect for giving… if, of course, you can bear to let it go. Personally, I’m going to have to let the next batch go… because I’m keeping this one!
I made the smaller batch as posted at From Argentina because I need to go get some jars that I can use for giving. But next time I’ll most certainly be using Jennie’s adaptation so that I have enough to share. I also pulled this batch off the heat pretty early, because I have plans to use this as a filling for a cake (stay tuned) and for mixing into my coffee. Next time, however, I think I’ll let it go a little longer so it’s darker and of a more “spreadable” consistency.
Make enough for yourself or spread the joy and make enough for people you love (you’ll find both recipes behind the jump) – either way, I promise that you won’t be disappointed!
Dulce de Leche – the “Small Batch”
(source: From Argentina)
1 quart milk, preferably whole, organic and as fresh as possible
1 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
In a large, heavy pan with tall sides, combine the milk and sugar. Split the vanilla bean along its length and scrape the seeds into the pot, then throw in the pod. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
When milk mixture has reached a simmer, remove from the heat and add the baking soda and water, stirring vigorously. When the mixture settles down, return the pan to the heat and bring to a brisk simmer.
Simmer for about one hour, or until it turns golden brown. You don’t have to stir – go about your business and keep an eye on it.
After the milk mixture has changed to a deep golden brown check it more frequently. This is where you can decide just how dense and thick you want it to be. If you want it pourable, like caramel sauce, wait just until it reaches the consistency of maple syrup – about 20 minutes after the color change – and take it off the heat. Strain through a mesh strainer into a glass jar or container and let cool. Or, if you prefer a jam-like consistency, let it cook longer. It will solidify into chewy candy if you cook it long enough.
Dulce de Leche – the “Big Batch”
(source: Straight from the Farm)
1 gallon whole milk, preferably raw and organic
3 cups sugar1 cup Splenda or other sugar substitute (or use another cup of sugar if you want)
2 vanilla beans
2 teaspoons baking soda
generous pinch of salt
In the biggest pot you have, combine the milk and sugar. Split the vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape out the beans with the back of the knife. Place beans and scraped out pods in the pot. Turn on the burner to medium heat and stir milk to dissolve the sugar. Turn up heat and bring to a rolling boil. While it comes to a boil, dissolve baking soda in the water. Set aside.
Remove boiling pot from the stove (it’s best to put pot near sink for potential spillage) and fish out the vanilla pods. Add the dissolved baking soda, stirring vigorously as milk will expand rapidly to fill the pot. When the mixture returns to its original volume, return the pot to the stove and bring to a very brisk simmer – it may concern you that it will scorch, but it should be practically boiling. Continue cooking for about an hour until it turns a deep golden brown. It is not necessary to stir it, just check in on it occasionally.
After the mixture has turned dark caramel in color, check it more frequently. The longer you continue cooking it after the color change, the thicker it will be. For a consistency similar to caramel, cook for another 10 minutes. For a thicker spread-like consistency, continue cooking for another 10 minutes. If you cook it even longer, it can turn into candy. Just remember that it will thicken up tremendously after cooling.
Once you’re ready, ladle dulce de leche into your container(s).
If you want to give your dulce de leche as gifts, use sterilized jars. Boil lids in a shallow pan and clean off rims of jars. Seal jars with lids and turn upside down to cool. Jars may seal this way so they can be stored at room temperature. However, if they do not seal, dulce de leche keeps for a very long time in the fridge.
(makes 4-5 eight ounce jars)