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June 24, 2021

In Venezuela, and in general in any Latin American country, we love to prepare homemade sweets and desserts using products that are easily available in our homes. We are fans of combining textures (crunchy with soft), flavors (salty with sweet), aromas and colors.

A very famous spreadable product in Latin American confectionery is Dulce de Leche or Arequipe, known in English as Milk caramel or milk jam.  Its name varies according to the country. In Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Ecuador and some parts of Colombia and Venezuela it is known as "Dulce de Leche", in other parts of Colombia and Venezuela and Guatemala it is known as "Arequipe", in Chile it is called "Manjar" and in Peru "Manjar Blanco". Regardless of how you know it, it is a sweet with a characteristic presentation and flavor, which tends to please all kinds of palates and can be consumed in various presentations. Today we will tell you 5 curiosities about this sweet that you have to know.

 

What is Dulce de Leche or Arequipe?

 

It is a thick and sweet dairy product made by cooking milk with sugar, and it is generally used as a dessert topping or as a spread. Although the original sweet is made with cow's milk, it can also be made with goat's milk.

 

What is the history of this spreadable product?

 

It is not very clear where Dulce de Leche was invented and there are several stories about it. Argentines, for example, claim that Dulce de Leche was born on June 24, 1829. At that time, the Cañuelas Pact was taking place, an agreement between the Governor of the province of Buenos Aires and his opponent, with the intention of stopping the country's civil war. The governor's cook got distracted and left the milk on the fire and it formed a cream of delicious flavor that we know today as Dulce de Leche. This is one of many stories, since other records assure that in 1814 this delicious sweet was already being produced and sold around the country.

Another similar history occurred in Spain. In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte's cook was heating milk with sugar and overcooked it, thus creating Dulce de Leche. All the stories have something in common and it is that from an "accident" or a "mistake" in the kitchen, this mixture of milk and sugar was created, with which a great variety of desserts can be prepared today.

 

Can Dulce de Leche be prepared at home?

 

There are several recipes to prepare Dulce de Leche, but one of the best known requires the following ingredients for its preparation: 2 liters of milk, 500g of sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence and another teaspoon of baking soda.

For its preparation, the baking soda is dissolved in water. Then, in a pot, cook all the ingredients over high heat and stir with a spoon. When the mixture takes a light brown color, lower the fire, and when it takes a darker color and becomes thick, remove it from the fire. Continue stirring and when it cools, package and store in the refrigerator.

 

What recipes can be prepared with Dulce de Leche?

 

In Venezuela Dulce de Leche or Arequipe is commonly consumed together with an Oblea. This sweet is prepared by spreading the arequipe on a waffle type cookie, and chocolate toppings, chocolate chips and colored sprinkles are added on top of the Arequipe.

One of the best-known recipes that include Dulce de Leche is the Alfajor, one of the most popular desserts in Argentina. The alfajoris a sweet dessert formed by two circular pieces joined together by a creamy substance that is usually Dulce de Leche, but can also include chocolate or jam.

Alfajoresare prepared with 75 g of butter, 75 g of powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence, 4 egg yolks, 200 g of refined corn flour (or Maizena), 50 g of wheat flour, 5 g of chemical yeast, salt, dulce de leche for filling and grated coconut for decoration.

To prepare it, mix the butter with the powdered sugar in a bowl. Then add vanilla essence, egg yolks and stir. Add the baking powder, a pinch of salt, the refined corn flour and the wheat flour and stir until a homogeneous dough is obtained. Roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Cut 6cm discs, bake for 10-12 minutes in a preheated oven at 180º C, and once cooled, fill with dulce de leche and coat the edges with grated coconut.

Dulce de Leche is also frequently seen in ice cream, cupcakes, flan and biscotti. It can be used as a spread on toast or cookies and in the preparation of filled cakes. It is commonly consumed at breakfast or snack, but for lovers of this sweet it can be eaten at any time of the day.

 

What is the most iconic thing about Dulce de Leche?

 

One of the most particular things is that it has its own day to be commemorated. Yes, Dulce de Lecheis the fourth most consumed dairy product in Argentina and it is so popular that since 1998, every October 11, the World Dulce de Leche Day is celebrated.  The purpose of celebrating this day is to pay tribute to the delicacy that was recognized as Food and Gastronomic Cultural Heritage of Argentina.

Now that you know all these curiosities about Dulce de Leche, how to prepare it and the recipes you can make with it, you will surely want a snack or dessert with this delicious sweet, so don't think twice!  It is a sweet that is 100% worth it, remember that not all desserts have a date to commemorate, and this one does.