Who would have thought that milk, sugar, vanilla bean and a dash of salt and baking soda could come together into something so luscious and sinfully delicious. No work needed, just dump the ingredients in a pot and let it go for about an hour. You can’t stray too far from it though. Like you can’t distract yourself playing with your new red lipstick or browse the net for a new purse or have a Sunday dance party with your dog.
Instead get it started and take the next hour to clean out your kitchen. By clean your kitchen I mean get rid of those impulse cereal purchases that seemed like a good idea but tasted like cardboard when you finally opened the box. Or get rid of that left over chicken that you didn’t remember was there because you had it like a month before.
So hang in the kitchen and give the pot a stir every so often. It’s going to look like nothing is happening for most of the time. Until the mixture starts to change color. By that point, keep more of an eye on it and stir it more often. And before you know it, you will have in front of you the most delicious, thick, rich sauce and a dilemma – you will want to pour it on everything.
Traditional cajeta is made with goat’s milk. Last time I checked, you can’t get that in Brooklyn so I went with regular whole milk. And although you can use vanilla extract in this recipe, take the extra 30 seconds and split open a vanilla bean instead. You won’t regret it. And don’t the little beans look pretty.
Some may not want to go through the trouble and just buy a bar of Dulce de Leche and call it a day. But I challenge those to try this. You’re gonna want to enjoy it by the spoon-full.
4 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water
Combine the milk, sugar and salt in a medium heavy-duty pot. Scrape the vanilla bean into the pot and add the pod as well. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. Remove from the heat and add the baking soda/water mixture. Stir carefully as it will bubble and steam up. When the bubbling has stopped, return the pot to the heat.
Adjust the heat so that the mixture is at a constant simmer, stirring often so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Once the mixture starts to golden brown, pay more attention and stir it more often. Cook until it is thick and a dark caramel color, about 1 hour.
Remove from the heat, remove the vanilla bean and allow to cool before using. The mixture will get thicker and stickier as it cools.