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What is Condensed Milk?

dulce de leche gingerbread rouladeWe’re here to answer your burning cooking questions, so fire away! This just in from one of our readers:


Q: I’ve been dying to make this dulce de leche gingerbread roulade I saw on your site. The recipe calls for prepared dulce de leche. I haven’t been able to find it at my supermarket, but I’ve heard you can make your own from condensed milk. Which got me thinking: what exactly is condensed milk? Seems sort of creepy that a dairy product can sit in a can for years.


A: Sweetened condensed milk is a canned milk product that’s a combination of milk and sugar – almost 45% of it is sugar! The mixture is cooked down until it’s reduced to a thick, sticky consistency, then canned. (This is not to be confused with evaporated milk, which is an unsweetened condensed milk product.)


Dulce de leche — translation is “milk jam” — is a thick, sticky caramel sauce, originally from Central and South America, made from a similar combination of milk and sugar. You can indeed make homemade dulce de leche from condensed milk, but very carefully! You need to poke a few holes in the top of the can, then simmer the condensed milk still in the can it in a saucepan of water for 2 to 3 hours, until golden caramel in color (constantly check the water level in the pan and keep it high; if the pan goes dry, the can could explode!)


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