Sweetened condensed milk (Recipe: microwave dulce de leche)
Native Americans, when introducing themselves to each other, identify by their clan name.
In that tradition, I am Salt Craver, married to Sweet Tooth.
Put a bag of potato chips in front of me, and you can kiss that bag goodbye. Except for chocolate, though, most things sweet -- a box of candy, sugar-coated cereal, leftover cake -- could sit untouched for years.
So, not being a natural-born sweets person, and growing up in a house where Weight Watchers was the dominant culinary influence, I didn't add sweetened condensed milk to my pantry until I met my husband. Ted defines Sweet Tooth; he'll leave all of the salty chips to me, but he goes for anything with sugar.
Sweetened condensed milk (also known as sweet and condensed milk, or just condensed milk) is cow's milk from which 60 percent of the water has been removed by a heating process, and to which sugar is then added. It's viscous, and not the bright white color of fresh milk.
Don't confuse this product with evaporated milk, which is not sweetened, but which comes in almost identical packaging (same size can, same colors on the label -- why do manufacturers do that?).
Sweetened condensed milk can be stored, unopened, in your pantry cupboard for up to one year. Its long shelf life made it a popular field ration in the American Civil War, nearly 150 years ago.
To substitute for one 14-ounce can, heat 1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp evaporated milk with 1 cup sugar and 3 Tbsp margarine.
If you are Sweet Tooth, you probably keep sweetened condensed milk on hand to make key lime pie, fudge, candies and flan. In Asia, you'll find it in Vietnamese coffee, Thai iced tea, and halo-halo, a dessert popular in The Philippines.
Microwave dulce de leche
When Sweet Tooth makes this on the stovetop, it seems to take forever. In the microwave, it takes less than 20 minutes. Makes one cup, which serves one Ted with one spoon.
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
Empty the can into a large (2-1/2 quart or larger) glass bowl, and cover with plastic wrap (cling film), keeping a tiny bit uncovered to prevent excess steam build-up.
Microwave on medium power (I used level 5 on a 10-level appliance) for 2 minutes. Remove, stir with a wire whisk, and recover. Cook on medium for 2 more minutes. Remove, stir with a whisk, recover.
Then, in increments of 2-1/2 minutes, cook (on medium power) for another 10 minutes, stirring between each interval. After the first two stirs, you'll notice that the milk bubbles and foams up as it expels moisture. Then, with each stirring, the milk will be thicker and more caramel colored.
If after the 10 minutes, you like the color and consistency, stop! If you'd like a thicker sauce, continue cooking in 1-minute increments for another 2-3 minutes.
Remove from the microwave, and let cool before packing in a glass jar, or use right away as a topping for ice cream.
Other recipes that use this pantry ingredient:
Lime cake with sweetened condensed milk frosting, from My Colombian Recipes
Magic cookie bars, from All Day I Dream About Food
Malted condensed milk ice cream, from Savory Simple
Korean shaved ice dessert, from The Kitchn
Gooey cookies and cream double chocolate cake bars, from Picky Palate