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Hot food: dulce de leche

Date

Jill Dupleix

This addictive South American treat is winning scores of new fans.

Insanely delicious ... pancakes with dulce de leche.

Insanely delicious ... pancakes with dulce de leche. Photo: Edwina Pickles

What is it?

It's the sweet, gooey caramel sauce that brings tears to the eyes of everyone who grew up with it, notably people from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. In Chile and Ecuador it's known as manjar, in Portugal doce de leite and in Mexico cajeta. With South American flavours trending, and the craze for salted caramel unabated, it's sweeping all before it.

Where is it?

Potts Point's modern-day taqueria Barrio Chino does mini churros with a double-dip tray of dulce de leche and chocolate, and York Street's La Bodeguita del Medio uses condensed milk for its flan de leche condensada with mixed berries. At Reuben Hills in Surry Hills, you can breakfast on brioche with dulce de leche and three-orange marmalade, or go back later for coffee and the traditional South American shortbreads known as alfajores, sandwiched with dulce de leche and rolled in coconut. ''Dulce de leche is a common thread throughout South America,'' chef Megan McCulloch says. ''We all have different names for it but it seems to transcend all borders.''

Why do I care?

Because it's insanely delicious, sweet and gloopy. Because it's brilliant swirled through yoghurt, slathered on hot toast or served with ice-cream, cake or churros. And because it's even better just spooned straight from the jar.

Can I do it at home?

The traditional method is to simmer milk, sugar and sodium bicarbonate for about three hours until it thickens into a caramel. Or boil unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk for three hours. Given these can explode if not submerged at all times, the safest method is to cheat. Pour 500 grams of sweetened condensed milk into a shallow, heatproof baking dish. Cover tightly with foil, place in a roasting pan and add hot water to halfway up the pan. Bake at 220C for 1½ hours until golden brown and set firm. Beat with a wooden spoon, transfer to a sterilised jar and store in the fridge.

Sourcing it

Barrio Chino, 28-30 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross, 8021 9750.

Reuben Hills, 61 Albion Street, Surry HIlls, 9211 5556.

La Bodeguita del Medio, 125 York Street, City, 9264 4224.


Pancakes with dulce de leche

150g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch of sea salt

2 eggs, separated

1 tbsp castor sugar

250ml buttermilk or milk

1 tbsp light olive oil or melted butter

1 tbsp butter

200g dulce de leche (see recipe)

200g strawberries, trimmed and sliced

1 tbsp icing sugar

100ml running cream

1. Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl and mix with salt.

2. In a second bowl, whisk egg yolks, sugar, buttermilk and oil together, then pour into dry ingredients, whisking until mixed but still a bit lumpy.

3. Rest in fridge for 30 minutes.

4. Melt a little of the butter in a non-stick pan, and add batter by the heaped tablespoon. Cook until golden, about one minute, then turn and cook other side, about one minute. Add a little more butter and cook remaining pancakes.

5. To serve, spread pancakes with dulce de leche, scatter with berries, dust with icing sugar and drizzle with cream.

Serves 4, makes 8

Trending Shio koji, a fermented mixture of rice (inoculated with the same Aspergillus oryzae mould as miso), sea salt and water has been dubbed ''the new MSG'', with one Japanese burger chain's shio koji burger described as an ''umami bomb extraordinaire''.

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