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CHAI-SPICED DULCE DE LECHE

Posted Nov 04 2012 10:04pm

In my next life, I’d like to come back as an Argentinean.

After spending more than two weeks traveling around the country with the manfriend, I am convinced that everyone in Argentina eats only four things: steak, croissants (or medialunas), dulce de leche and wine. Ummm…is that not a diet we can all vote in favor of?* Especially seeing as miraculously, obesity doesn’t seem to be too big of an issue.

Everywhere we went, the steak was so flavorful, so tender. The croissants so buttery, so flaky. The dulce de leche so creamy, so rich. And the wine! So complex, so…so…so drinkable. A bottle a night, to be precise (split between two people, I assure you).

One of our favorite places of the whole trip was Cafayate.

Located in the Calchaqui Valley, Cafayate is Argentina’s wine country of the northwest – smaller, less touristy and snuggled right at the base of the red-tinted peaks of the Andes. This quaint little town makes it easy (too easy?) to drink a bottle of wine a night. It costs around $8 – less if you buy it at the convenience store and free if you hit up all the free wine tastings around town.

Torrontes is the king wine around here. A fresh, fruity white wine that’s a perfect accompaniment to empanadas. I should also mention to you that I ate a lot of empanadas on vacation.

And I mean, A LOT.

Each day in Cafayate started nearly identical to every other day.

Wake-up. Yawn. Kiss manfriend good morning. Do a happy dance upon the realization I’m in Argentina. Drink water (to hydrate from the wine consumed the night beforehand). Make myself halfway presentable. Head downstairs to the hotel breakfast. Order a cafe con leche (coffee with milk) and three croissants. Scoop dulce de leche onto said croissants. Devour. Repeat.

It’s tasted exceedingly good after a day spent biking between vineyards in Cafayate.

Dulce de leche is a milk caramel that’s made by reducing whole milk and sugar down until it’s thick and gooey and delicious to eat on anything. Toast, ice cream, cookies, bananas, sweet potatoes…you name it, I’ve done it. It’s an Argentine specialty, and it is sooooo sooooo good.

Sooooo good in fact, that I ate the entire jar I brought back from Argentina and was forced to make my own. In the early Christmas spirit, I’ve add rich chai spices – cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cardamom and black pepper. Yes, I love the holidays, and yes, I spent the weekend watching cheesy Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. Don’t judge me.

This dulce de leche is slightly spicy, perfectly sweet and on the menu for breakfast tomorrow.

Cafe con leche included.

Chai-Spiced Dulce de Leche
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 2 – 3 hours

4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract (or the seeds of 1 vanilla bean)
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
3/4 t cardamom
1/2 t allspice
1/4 t black pepper
1 t baking soda

In a large saucepan over medium heat, whisk milk, sugar, vanilla and spices together. Bring to a simmer (all the sugar should be dissolved). Add baking soda and reduce heat to low. Let simmer, stirring occasionally but not incorporating the foam on the surface with the liquid.

Cook for two to three hours until mixture is reduced and similar in thickness to regular yogurt.

Makes 1 to 1 1/2 cups

(*PSA: Do your research, and don’t forget to VOTE on Tuesday!)

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