If you recall, I recently tried my hand at making goat cheese. I loved it but with almost 5 gallons of goat milk remaining in the freezer, I had a burning desire to make something else…and it didn’t take a lot of convincing for me to turn to Cajeta. Dulce de Leche (milk candy) is a Mexican confection that is a combination of milk and sugar cooked at low heat for a long time until the milk has evaporated considerably and caramelized and the result is a thick, golden caramel sauce. Cajeta is the same thing with the exception that instead of cow’s milk, goat milk is combined with sugar.
The name for cajeta comes from the Spanish phrase al punto de cajeta, which means a liquid thickened to the point at which a spoon drawn through the liquid reveals the bottom of the pot in which it is being cooked. Getting milk to pass that test requires some time and patience but is still really simple. Many consider a recipe for dulce de leche to consist of immersing a can of sweetened condensed milk in a pan of water that is heated for a period until the contents caramelize. I would just buy a container of dulce de leche before bothering with that effort…making it yourself from scratch brings both the best rewards and the best flavor.
I made mine with Zulka Cane Sugar from Mexico (seemed appropriate for cajeta right?) but I love this sugar for so many things…especially my morning coffee; it’s a small but for me significant change and I’m certain it was the perfect choice for this homemade cajeta. The basic recipe is simply cornstarch, baking soda, milk and sugar but I decided to add some of my favorite seasoning (cinnamon, vanilla and rum) and the end result was perfectly wonderful. If you’ve yet to discover vanilla bean paste; now is the time. I love this stuff and when the folks at Nielsen-Massey sent me some vanilla products to sample, I started using the vanilla bean paste in a lot of holiday treats and I admit; I’m totally hooked. It’s vanilla beans in a thick liquid; no need to split and scrape beans for me anymore!
When my daughter mentioned to a co-worker of Mexican descent that I was making cajeta, she shared a recipe that she loved for Empanadas de Cajeta – basically circles of pie dough filled with cajeta that are folded, crimped and baked and result in an amazing treat. I so wanted to make these as I can imagine the inclusion of some cream cheese in that dough is fantastic but I also want to clear out my fridge and freezer in anticipation of moving, so I decided to do what I call a ‘Sandra Lee.’ I used frozen pie dough rounds for my empanadas that were filled with my homemade cajeta.
Talk about a sweet treat; they were lovely. But I’ll tell you that for me the sublime is simply some vanilla ice cream with a bit of cajeta and maybe some toasted nuts to garnish. By the way, I save all of my ‘scrap’ nuts when I chop nuts for a recipe and combine them in a Ziploc bag. When I have enough, I add a bit of salt and roast them for ice cream topping; so delish! I could eat this every night. Well, maybe could isn’t the word…thinking ‘have’ might be more appropriate. The method for making Dulce de Leche or Cajeta is the same; just depends on whether you use cow milk or goat milk but either one? Simply divine…and wait until you see the cocktail I’ve made for Valentines Day that I’ll post next Friday. It is amazing…but how could it not with this homemade ‘milk candy?’
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 3 quarts goat milk or cow milk or a combination of both
- 3 cups cane sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp vanilla paste (or vanilla)
- 1/4 cup rum (optional)
- Dissolve cornstarch and baking soda in 1 cup of the milk in a large pot; stirring to dissolve lumps.
- Add remaining ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil.
- Turn down heat to low and cook until mixture is the consistency of caramel sauce; stirring with regularity;approximately 50-60 minutes. (I did not stand over a pot for hours when I cooked triple this recipe but I did make a point to stir it about every 15 minutes).
- Pour into container(s); will keep in fridge for several weeks.
Be careful to not let the mixture get too hot; it will both boil over and will start to burn on the bottom of the pot. Low and slow is the way to go!!