We like themes.
Theme birthday parties, like 'Backwards Upside-Down Party' and 'Jazzersize Party.'
Yes, these were actual birthday parties we had as kids.
Ooooo, and we like theme restaurants (hello, Ed Debevic's, can we please have some Green Rivers?) and even theme outfits (Sloane Ranger Country chic, Barbie Goes to the Opera, etc.).
But, we really like theme dinners. Like Moroccan Feast, American Grill and Asian Fusion (just to name a few).
So, when our latest dinner party was Central American in spirit, we had to quickly think up an appropriately awesome dessert to wow our guests while minimizing time spent in the kitchen.
When our Mummy threw out "something with dulce de leche" we sort of panicked. Dulce de leche sounds difficult to make not to mention time consuming. How can something so delicious be easy to make? No way, Jose. Life doesn't work that way.
But, then she launched into a pity party about how when she was a wee lass at boarding school in Scotland with evil nuns and no money, she and her friends would take cans of condensed milk which only cost 50 pence, poke holes in the tops and sit them on top of the one radiator in the whole convent for 3 days and then open them up and enjoy the sweet delights of caramelized condensed milk...aka dulce de leche...and it was so simple to make and absolutely Catherine and Abigail you could make dulce de leche, haven't I taught you better, blah blah blah.
Hmmm....still not sure we believe this story, but with dinner approaching, we decided to give the dulce de leche a chance.
We read through 10 different recipes. Mostly because we like to cover our bases slash we are extremely type-A, but also because the recipe was so ridiculously simple that we didn't believe it. Even if it did sound suspiciously similar to Mummy's story.
But, we sheepishly admit, our Mummy was right again.
The Scottish convent school secret is out. Homemade dulce de leche makes the Easy Bake Oven look like advanced rocket science.
Now go and have yourself a theme dinner already!
Dulce de Leche Ice Cream
For the Dulce de Leche:
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk (1 can)
pinch of fleur de sel
For the Ice Cream:
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
To make the dulce de leche, preheat the oven to 425° Fahrenheit.
Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk into a glass pie plate or shallow baking dish. We used an 8-by-8" glass baking pan. Stir in some flakes of fleur de sel.
Place the glass baking plate into a larger roasting pan. Cover the glass baking dish very tightly with aluminum foil. Then, fill the large roasting pan with hot or boiling water enough to reach halfway up the sides of the glass dish.
Bake the entire thing for 1 to 1 1/4 hours making sure to check the water level and refill if it gets too low.
When you pull out the pan, allow to cool and then whisk the now caramelized sweetened condensed milk until smooth. It's ok if it's not perfectly smooth, it will still taste delicious. Just try to stop yourself from taking a spoonful.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to add to the ice cream. If you want to eat the dulce de leche over ice cream or apple pie (or with a spoon by yourself while watching 'Sex in the City' reruns) microwave the sauce gently to soften. Really, it is that easy.
While the dulce de leche is cooling, make the ice cream base.
In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Pour the milk and cream into a small saucepan warm over low heat until hot, but not boiling. Stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking. Very slowly pour the hot cream into the eggs to temper them and whisk until smooth. Don't worry if it's a bit lumpy. You're going to sieve the whole thing at the end.
Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-low until thick and bubbling around the edges. The custard will coat a wooden spoon. Use your instinct. It will feel thicker when you are stirring it.
Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Pour the cream into the canister of an ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream is the consistency of frozen whipped cream, right before the ice cream is done, add thick dolops of dulce de leche, allowing the caramel to mix into the ice cream ever-so-slightly.
Then, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze in the refrigerator’s freezer for at least 3 hours until ready to serve.
This would be fabulous with apple pie or ginger cake or anything.