Before coming here, it is pretty embarrassing how little I knew about what I was in for food-wise. Among things that I did not know about South American food was the amazing prevalence and variety of the baking culture here. Almost every meal is served with bread and sandwiches are a major staple of the Uruguayan diet. More surprising to me, however, were the incredibly numerous confiterias, complete with shop-front windows to make a sweet tooth weep for joy.
I knew about flan, but I had absolutely no idea that there would be baked sweets everywhere. I didn’t get a picture of them, but our favorites are yo-yo’s – two cookies (kind of like Nilla wafers, but like 5x bigger) sandwiching dulce de leche and glazed with chocolate (recipe forthcoming).
Dulce de leche is definitely the unifying ingredient here – it seems like there is a layer of it in everything. There are probably 15 brands of dulce for sale in the grocery stores – I think the Uruguayans even eat it on toast at breakfast? Too much sweetness for me early in the morning, but to each their own.
At this point, you might be wondering – what does this have to do with impressing people at dinner parties? The answer: dulce de leche is incredibly easy to make at home. So the next time you’re invited to a social gathering and scrambling for an idea of something to bring, allow me to humbly suggest “homemade dulce de leche, it’s a South American dessert, didn’t you know?” accompanied by some sliced fruit or Nilla wafers for dipping.
1 can sweetened, condensed milk (that’s it)
1) Poke 2 or 3 holes in the top of your can of sweetened, condensed milk and remove the label.
2) Place can in small saucepan. Fill saucepan with water almost up to the rim of the can and bring to a boil for 3-4 hours depending on desired consistency (3 will be a little runnier, 4 a little firmer). You will need to add water to the saucepan every so often as it evaporates.
At the end of this time, the can’s contents will be caramelized into dulce de leche. All you need to do is remove it from the boiling water (with tongs! it will be very hot!), wait for it to cool, and pour it out of the can into your desired serving container. If the consistency is uneven, whisking for a minute should take care of it. And of course, make sure that your hosts know that you absolutely slaved over the oven to make it…
Making dulce from scratch is more involved, and you can absolutely do that, but this version has 3 out of the 4 things I look for in a recipe: easy, cheap, and delicious. The other thing would be “healthy,” but I’m not going to lie to anyone about that.
On a totally different note, I haven’t mentioned it here yet, but today my husband and I are relocating (again) to Buenos Aires, Argentina. We like Montevideo – I think if we were Uruguayan, it would be a really great place to live. But we did some soul-searching about what we really want from our time abroad and decided that we need to move on. I am really excited about food in Buenos Aires! I think the “local” food will probably be very similar, but since BA is a much larger city, I think it will also have a lot of interesting foreign food and more variety in general. I’m looking forward to sharing 🙂 Until then!