Dulce de Leche Brownies, Por Favor!

When I travel I like to bring back a recipe or food idea native to the culture. From Venice came risotto. From France: Camembert. From Taiwan: mochi. So, when I was in Chile for work, I was on the look-out. Chile has great food and I had more than my share of beef, salmon (pronounced saLLmon) and wine of the Carmenere variety (somehow a case of it even followed me home).  But alas, I didn’t return particularly inspired to make something new. So, I’m admitting now, this recipe is a bit of a cop-out.

But before I move on, I have a picture viewing hint.  If you place your cursor over a picture you can click on it to enlarge.  When I was proofing this post the pictures looked really small so I thought I’d bring this little tidbit to your attention.

Dulce de leche is popular in many Latin American countries. It’s very rich, very good and almost impossible to mess-up. So, inspired by David Lebovitz’s own version, I bring you my not-particularly-creative but definitely good dulce de leche brownies.

Since I used my own brownie recipe http://www.tmhostess.com/2010/01/the-brownie-stands-alone/, let’s focus on the dulce de leche. Dulce de leche starts and ends with a single ingredient: sweetened condensed milk. Yep, that’s all (though if you are like me, you’ll add in a little kosher or sea salt).

I’ve come across three ways of making it, two of which I’ve tried, one I will detail here and the third will come next week. The first version involves placing an open can of the stuff in a pot filled with water (well, filled up to about an inch from the top of the milk can). Then you boil the water for about two hours, replacing the water as it turns to steam and stirring the milk occasionally. This worked well when I tried it. Apparently, this technique carries the risk of exploding cans of caramel that seems scares people away. The third version I’ve come across involves using a double boiler.

Here is the second version; credits to David Lebovitz.

Get out your roasting pan and a thick pie or baking dish (I like glass). Yes both; we’re going to bake via water bath. Now, add the sweetened condensed milk to the smaller pan (I used a 9X13 pan for my brownies so I used 2 14oz cans of milk).

Before we move on, want to hear a cool story about South America? See the little dish up in the right-hand corner of the last picture? It’s wear I put my rings when I cook.  But that’s not the cool part.  My friend Melissa brought the dish back for me from her sabbatical trip to South America. While she was there she also met a boy, fell in love, got married, had the world’s cutest baby (seriously, the cutest) and now they all live in Buenos Aires Argentina.  That’s the cool part of the story.

Back to the dulce de leche.  Add about 3 inches of water to the roasting pan.

After you have created the water bath, carefully move whole operation into an oven pre-heated to 450 degrees (really, you should put it on a lower rack than I did).

Bake for 35-45 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir et voila—you’ve got dulce de leche. Really, that’s all there is to it.

But here is the thing. Dulce de leche is very, very dangerous stuff to have around. At least if you are me. Which means fairly immediate re-purposing is required. In this case it involved brownies.

Let the dulce de leche cool to room temperature. While it is cooling, pull together your favorite brownie batter. I’ve linked to mine above.

When the dulce de leche is cool to the touch but still spreadable it’s time to get down to business. Pour half of your brownie batter into a prepared pan.   Now, drop 1/3-1/2 of the dulce de leche in teaspoons, evenly spaced throughout the pan.

Drag a knife through the first layer to spread the dulce de leche a bit.

Next, pour the remaining batter over the spread caramel. Repeat the teaspoon and spreading action. Pretty isn’t it?

Now, into the oven. While you are waiting, pay your dues to Balu the kitchen god who watches every project with vigilance from the top of the refrigerator.

The brownies are even pretty when they come out of the oven.

Let the brownies cool completely. In fact, because of the sticky factor of the caramel, you may want to throw the brownies in the fridge over night before cutting.

And here, straight from Santiago Chile to you (and by straight, I mean completely circuitous and probably not even really related), I bring you the dulce de leche brownie.

Dulce de Leche, version II

1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Sea salt to taste.

Preheat over to 450 degrees.

Pour milk into a smallish baking dish (a pie tin will do as well). Please smaller dish into a larger dish (I used a roasting pan). Fill roasting dish with about 3″ of water. Into the oven it goes. Check at about 30 minutes. Stir and then check at 5 minute intervals until caramel is the color of peanut butter (of course you could cook it more or less to taste). Let cool and store in the refrigerator.