Widely acclaimed by international food blogs and cooking pundits alike, the sweet and sticky dulce de leche is widely used in desserts and baking. This popular confection is believed to have its origins in South America but we fortunately do not have to go that far to bring it to our kitchens. Homemade dulce de leche can be just as detectable if you have the patience and determination of reducing milk and sugar for hours. A less messy and less costly alternative would be to start from a can of condensed milk; the magic of turning sweetened condensed milk into dulce de leche is simply to extract the water from the milk leaving behind the fat and sugar to caramelize.
Though the tried-and-tested stovetop method has been used countless times by myriads of people, I always favor the oven-baked one because I can never shake off the fear of having something exploding in my kitchen. So, cut open you tin, pour the viscous condensed milk in an oven safe dish and cover tightly with foil. Place this in a large baking tray and pour water so that it comes up to 2/3 the depth of the condensed milk containing dish. Set your oven at 400oF and bake for 2 hours coming back to check on the water level regularly. At the end of your hours of ‘hard work’, you will be rewarded with creamy homemade dulce de leche that you can use to flavor both cupcakes and buttercream.
DULCE DE LECHE CUPCAKES
For the Cupcakes
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 tsp table salt
1/2 cup dulce de leche
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream
4 egg whites
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
24 tbs unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup dulce de leche
1 tsp vanilla extract
- Adjust an oven rack to the idle position; heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin wells with paper cups.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, and baking soda. Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.
- Beat butter, sugar, and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy for about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides as necessary.
- With the mixer running, gradually add the dulce de leche; beat another minute, until thoroughly incorporated.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then mix in the oil and vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low.
- Add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk and ending with the dry ingredients.
- Beat each addition just until incorporated. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups, filling each to two-thirds full.
- Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack.
- Remove the cupcakes from the pan after 5 minutes. Cool completely before frosting. Makes 24 regular muffins.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand-held mixer), combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt.
- Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.
- Whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160 degrees. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment.
- Beat egg white mixture on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and it has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.
- Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add butter 2 tbs at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is thick and smooth for about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the dulce de leche and vanilla; mix until incorporated. Pipe onto cooled muffins and drizzle with extra dulce de leche.
With Homemade Dulce de Leche