Dulce de Leche (Sweet Milk) is the most popular candy in the Rio de la Plata. As with many other things, there is a dispute between Uruguay and Argentina regarding its invention. The important thing is not "who" invented it, but the fact that it was invented and it is here with us to make our lives a lot sweeter.
Legend has it that an important politician many years ago (I will not give names to avoid nationalities) asked his cook to warm some milk with sugar to accompany the Mate. The cook got distracted (for political reasons that we won´t go into) and the milk started to boil. When she remembered and went back to the kitchen the milk had become something brown and thick. When her boss tasted it he liked it and it became a new sweet to be enjoyed at all times. That's how Dulce de Leche was "invented".
It is, of course, not exclusive of the Rio de la Plata. With different names it exists throughout Latin America. Manjar in Chile and Ecuador, Manjar Blanco in Perú, Bolivia, Ecuador and Panama, Arequipe in Colombia and Venezuela, Cajeta in Mexico, Fanguito in Cuba, and Dulce de Leche in Argentina, Uruguay, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Republica Dominicana and Costa Rica.
It is simply a preparation of milk, sugar and vanilla, boiled for a long time until it becomes thick and creamy.
If you want to try it the hard way:
Milk: 3 liters
Sugar: 1 Kilogram
Sodium bicarbonate: 1/2 spoon
Vanilla: 1 pod or a small quantity of essence.
Cook all the ingredients together over low heat, stirring all the time until the milk starts to boil. Lower the heat to the minimum and keep stirring, preferably with a wooden spoon doing an 8 movement, until the mixture begins to thicken and darken. Raise the heat until it starts to boil again. Remove from the heat and let it cool. It is ready to be tasted.
If you want to do it the easy way just go to the supermarket and buy a jar of Dulce de Leche Lapataia or Conaprole. If this is too easy then do the following:
Get a can of condensed milk. Put it inside a large pan and cover it with water. Boil for 2 hours. Take it out of the water (very carefully) and let it cool. Open it and you have a can of Dulce de Leche.
The Dulce de Leche can be used in many different ways. It can be eaten out of the jar, one of the great pleasures in life, or mixed with other things. Some of the great things to eat with Dulce de Leche are bananas, pancakes, flan (creme caramel) or cakes. The Alfajor is a round pastry filled with Dulce de Leche, extremely popular in Uruguay and Argentina. There is a cake called Milhojas (Thousand Leaves) that is made of many thin layers of pastry, each one separated by a thick layer of Dulce de Leche, and covered with meringue. Try it, you won`t regret it.
If you have a sweet tooth then any or all of this things are highly recommended.