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June 10, 2020

Dulce de Leche — How sweet it is

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Oliver Schwaner-Albright's New York Times magazine article on the delicious concoction got me so excited I went and made some.

Here's his piece, followed by a recipe that appeared along with his story.

Got Leche?

My first memory of dulce de leche was when a can of it exploded in the kitchen.

This was in Los Angeles in 1979, six years after my father fled Chile, and the only way for him to have dulce de leche to spread on toast was if he made it himself.

What had once been a labor-intensive process of stirring milk and sugar over a low flame for half a day until it thickened to the consistency of butterscotch had by then been reduced to a one-step recipe with the introduction of sweetened condensed milk: just boil an unopened can for three hours.

The only trick is to make sure the water level doesn't drop too far.

But scrubbing the walls occasionally was a small price to pay.

A batch never lasted more than a day, and after a while my father would stop bothering with the toast and wander off with the can and a spoon.

In Chile, dulce de leche is better known as manjar, and on a recent trip there I was reminded of its built-in nostalgia.

Children eat it sandwiched between cookies and dipped in chocolate, called an alfajor, or slathered in a sugar donut, called a Berlin.

Dulce de leche's two essential ingredients are milk and sugar, though now almost every brand adds fructose (for shine) and sodium bicarbonate (for color).

Unfortunately, most of Chile's offerings also use chemical preservatives, and they taste like it.

Even the most patriotic Chilenos I spoke to admitted that it's different across the Andes, and if I was to taste something pure I would need to go to Argentina, where they are far more serious about their dulce de leche.

This is true at La Paila, in the heart of Argentina's dairy country, which uses only milk from its herd of 700 Holsteins.

Twice a day cows are led to the milking shed, which is attached to the plant; the milk slowly caramelizing in the vats upstairs was pasture just a few hours before.

When I told the owner, Leslie Widderson — a first-generation Anglophone with the bearing and the Barbour jacket of an English gentleman — that the sweet, steamy air pouring out of the stainless-steel vats was intoxicating, he said, "If you really want a jolt, stir some dulce de leche into your morning coffee and add a shot of brandy."

In Uribelarrea, a village settled by Basques a century ago, Horacio and Regina Martinez make Cabras del Salado, a dulce de leche with milk from their small herd of Anglo-Nubian goats.

Goat's-milk dulce de leche — which has a cleaner flavor than cow's milk — is common in Colombia, where it's called ariquipe, and in Mexico, where it's called cajeta, but it's a novelty in Argentina.

Horacio Martinez is an instructor at Don Bosco, an agricultural school where dulce de leche is part of the curriculum.

The students pack what they prepare in waxed cardboard containers, which has the same wholesome association as milk in a glass bottle, and sell it in the school store.

They also have homey alfajores, each wrapped by hand and tied with a string.

But the most celebrated alfajores in Argentina are from Havanna bakery, which opened in the beach resort Mar de Plata in 1947; you always brought back a box after a trip to the coast.

Their great innovation is the Havannet, an alfajor with only one cookie and three times the dulce de leche.

It looks like a gigantic Hershey's Kiss, and as with a peanut-butter cup, it divides the world into people who attack it top to bottom or nibble around the side.

Today there are Havanna Cafés all over Buenos Aires, and their colorful display is the first thing you see at the airport duty-free shop.T

They also sell jars of dulce de leche, which I carefully packed in my carry-on.

And when I got home, I didn't even try to make toast; I just opened a jar and grabbed a spoon.

....................

Dulce de Leche

One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (containing only milk, sugar, glucose and sodium bicarbonate), label removed.

Place the can in a saucepan and cover with water by at least 1 inch.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for 3 hours, adding water as needed to keep the can submerged.

Remove from the water and let cool for at least 1 hour before opening.

Stir until smooth.

Makes 1¼ cups.

Adapted from Oscar Schwaner-Bonvallet.

June 10, 2020 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Every time is like the first time

YouTube caption:

Though I invented this nifty kitty port last summer to accommodate Gray Cat's forays outside onto the patio, she approaches it each time as if she's never seen it before, before nudging the door with her forehead and then passing through.

It's what I call her "Catgras syndrome," after the Capgras delusion — every time she approaches her litter box, it's as if she's channeling the Talking Heads' song "Once In A Lifetime": "This is not my beautiful litter box."

June 10, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"No Woman, No Cry" — Sheku Kanneh-Mason

The 21-year-old British cellist is taking the classical music world by storm.

Back story here.

June 10, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Mr. Stupid*'s First Rule of Life

Collector's

This post originally appeared here on January 10, 2006, with an encore August 21, 2010.

I figure a decade's a decent interval.

Mr. Stupid*'s First Rule of Life

The rule: "Anytime anything that's supposed to do something doesn't, check to make sure it's plugged in."

First Corollary: "If it's battery–powered, put in new batteries."

These two seemingly for–the–brain–dead–only statements will solve about 80% of hardware–related problems.

Other useful things:

A large contributor to success in business is the result of returning all phone calls the same day.

You don't have to talk to anyone; in fact, I often wait till after business hours to return a call I might've responded to earlier simply because for one reason or another I don't want to talk to that person just then.

I leave a voice message saying I returned their call of earlier today; that's sufficient to buy a delay until tomorrow or later.

When someone tells you that you must do something immediately that requires your money, and if you don't do it now you'll lose your chance, always, Always, ALWAYS say "no thank you."

You will never see your money again with 99+% of such investment "opportunities."

People who ask you to give them a break on price always cause more trouble than those who pay full freight without quibbling.

*That would be me

June 10, 2020 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

INSERT COIN TO PLAY Arcade Keychain

Insert-coin-key-chain

From the website:

The video game industry has made at least four technological triple-jumps since the retro age, but games like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Galactica still hold a quarter-sized slot in our hearts.

With the INSERT COIN TO PLAY keychain, they'll be close to your heart and your keys!

Made of die cast metal and sized the same as the original, this retro replica fondly recreates the classic arcade console coin doors (aka the original in-app purchases).

And unlike Turtles in Time, you don't need to keep feeding this keepsake.

Press the button to illuminate the keychain and reminisce about the good ole' days when the final boss was just ahead and all you had to worry about was thinking up funny initials to put on the scoreboard.

Features and Details:

• Button illuminates the words for 10 seconds with an LED light, then shuts off automatically

• One CR2032 battery included

• Doesn't accept real money

• Arcade-accurate size

• 2" x 1½" x ½"

$15.99 (keys included with orders from southern suburbs of Atlanta — please specify front or back door).

June 10, 2020 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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