Generally I like things I can taste as I'm going, I like being fast and loose with ingredients and I don't like to measure them. So Dulce de Leche is really pretty far outside my usual repertoire. But I love it, and since I needed to come up with a gluten free dessert for lunch with some friends, I decided now was the time to make it.
Most recipes online ask you to boil a can of condensed milk. However, I only have a microwave oven, and since I also have the will to live, that option was not open to me. I had a look around online and ended up getting a general feel for what was supposed to be going on. Here's how I did mine. This makes a very small batch, since I didnt want to have too much left over from dessert.
Pour 1 litre of full cream milk, 250 g of brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt into a large, deep pot.
Stir constantly on a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Continuing to stir, turn the heat up to high and let the mixture boil so that it froths up. Then turn the heat down to a medium low. Most recipes say the mixture shoud be barely simmering, but I got very paranoid and turned it down a little too low - the mixture was only occasionally bubbling. That's why this batch took about 4 hours to reduce down to a consistency I liked. Apparently you can leave the mix alone, but I got up every 30 minutes or so to gently whisk it just to prevent a skin from forming (do you see what I mean about paranoid?)
About 3 hours in, the taste was similar to condensed milk, which worried me - the dulce de leche I remembered is in the same family of flavours as condensed milk, but it certainly isn't the same flavour. It seemed to have the same aftertaste too, and I hate bad aftertastes. But if you keep reducing it it will eventually lose this taste. You can add a pinch more salt if you're worried (I did and I liked it).
When the batch is the consistency you want - and remember it firms up quite a lot more when you cool it down - whisk it to make sure it is smooth and then pour it into containers to cool. When I took it off the heat the consisency was such that it would drip off a spoon slowly. After 5 hours of refrigeration, when I dug a spoon into the jar the shape of the dig stayed clean in the caramel.
I whisked a little cinnamon into half the batch and found that it worked very well with it. This is really easy to make - I think the most difficult part is not eating it all as soon as it's finished. I know I kept "checking the consistency" with a spoon throughout the day, and then - surprise! - I had a spoon with dulce de leche on it I just couldn't waste! At lunchtime we had it with vanilla ice cream and sauteed pears and it was great.