All my life I have loved baking. I don’t just love it because I love baked goods either. I love the sense of accomplishment I feel when I have made something from scratch. I love the Zen I get from measuring and mixing. I love using the best ingredients I can get my hands on, knowing I’m making something so much better than a store-bought treat. I love the idea that I’m taking on a challenge others might not take on.
Over the years I haven’t backed down from too many challenges. I have made yeast breads and rolls, pies, custards, and candies. There are some pastries I haven’t tried (like puff pastry) but I’ve attempted many desserts at least once.
I have had success with some desserts more than others. There have been times when a single failure has turned me off from ever trying that recipe again.
As I grow older, I sometimes question the wisdom of my baking efforts. Years of baking haven’t made me any better at it. I still churn out patchwork pie crusts and lopsided cakes. I do better with cookies and ice cream and puddings since they don’t have a set shape. As much as I love baking I’m not sure I have the touch to be a really good baker. Sure my desserts taste good, but I have to wonder if the lack of visual appeal can turn people off.
Despite this, I still find myself wanting to take on a dessert challenge now and then. Since I started this blog I have made my first doughnuts as well as finally being successful with cream puffs. I may be discouraged from time to time, but I still keep going and finding new tastes to try.
That brings me to the main point of this post (if you’re a regular reader of TERP, you know how much I have to ramble on with stories or contemplative blather before I arrive at the point of the post). I do get those bugs up my butt now and again to make a specific food I have never made before (or haven’t made in a very long time due to a past flop). My current obsession is homemade dulce de leche.
Dulce de leche has been the hot dessert ingredient for the past few years. It shows up in cakes and cookies and ice cream. Most recipes I see that incorporate it suggest you buy it in a jar. Making it homemade is a long slow process that most cooks don’t have time for. There is no shame it buying it.
Homemade dulce de leche may be a slow process, but it didn’t seem like a difficult one. I decided that I really had to try making it myself. All I needed was a few hours at home.
I surfed the net like crazy for a recipe. You would not believe how many recipes out there are “shortcut” recipes that use condensed milk. I wanted to make it completely from scratch. I finally found Alton Brown’s recipe. I’m not an Alton Brown fan and find his recipes don’t work more often than they do, but he was offering me a from-scratch recipe and I took a chance.
Well, this weekend some of my horse people friends got together to throw my mother a party for her upcoming landmark birthday. The host of the party instructed me to "bring one of your outrageous desserts." I have always been the designated dessert maker for occasions like this. I was ready and willing to make something with my new dulce de leche.
My layers came out nice and even- almost. I was shocked. I made the frosting. It was buttery and rich, but not too sweet thanks to the addition of cocoa powder with the milk chocolate. When I piled them on top of each other, there was a bit of a gap between the layers in one spot. I didn't have quite enough frosting to fill it in. When I took the photo, I took it from the "good side" of the cake.
I still have a fair amount of dulce-de-leche left in the jar. I have all sorts of plans for it. Ice cream anyone? How about some pie?
*One time I made her chocolate coconut bread pudding and one of the party attendees, an employee of Martha Stewart, kept declaring it, "Yumm-o." I didn't know what to think.