Desserts Wiggly Things / Creamy Things

dulce de leche recipe – slow cooker style

pudding soft, caramelly goodness with little effort. easier than life changes. ::::


Books are the path to so much understanding. Whether it is a seemingly simple book about sharing with the kids, a densely-written tome on racial reconciliation, a simply-written book about teenage love, or a well-written biography, they all teach something. When books aren’t available, I find podcasts can teach me. One of my favorite podcasts is The Moth. It presents ordinary people, telling stories without notes, on stage to an audience. Some stories are overflowing with pain. Some are comical and joyful. Each teaches a lesson to the storyteller and the audience. It’s spans generations, cultures, and race. In the last few days, I have clung to more of these words, delving into someone else’s life for a few minutes, thinking of the stories my husband will tell after his arrival home from Africa. He just left and will be gone until July. It’s not that I’m not busy (another job interview – yay!; kids, in general), and not that I want to avoid my life. I just love climbing into another life to learn something, something that I would never get from my own.

Jensi Sartin, an aquaculturist originally from Borneo, recently talked on The Moth about his experience in Bali and a fish bank. He explains the plight of an overfished area and a fisherman named Nyoman. Sartin helps set up a method to replenish the overfished area and give hope to the community therein. Sartin explains to create the fish bank, the overfished waters needed to be protected and untouched for the fish to flourish. The idea of hands off to allow someone or something to grow is overlooked. I think all too often we try to fix things that need time by themselves in order to heal. Bluntly, if you keep picking the scab, it won’t get better.


the consistency must be like pudding, like those fat hands grabbing the jar. puddin’!

And, similarly, letting go of my youngest to start daycare. In preparation for a vague job start, and the news that we got a spot for Sky-Girl in the same daycare as Grub, it was time to start her last month. After our tumultuous daycare experience last year with her, I am admittedly gun shy to let go. That, and that Sky and I have developed such a routine to our day, that it is hard to break that closeness and toddler conversation. She started last month, a bit rough as we expected, but with a smoother transition than the prior experience. My wound for the first few days was barely raw. I immersed myself in all-day cooking projects interspersed with job communications. I did not pick; it did heal. And we are onto another stage in our lives where the baby is not so much a baby anymore.

One can apply a similar concept of leaving something alone to making dulce de leche. In order to achieve the beautiful pudding consistency (much like Sky-Girl’s cheeks) and caramel flavor, to allow the Malliard reaction to work its magic, one must take a hands off approach. This is even a better achieved by using a slow cooker.

My experience is that the older your slow cooker, the longer it will take to come to temperature and cook your food. Considering that, give yourself some wiggle room when cooking : 8-12 hours is a good range. You may need to experiment a little. I also did multiple trials using homemade sweetened condensed milk to no avail. It doesn’t work! The homemade sweetened condensed milk, made on stovetop or in the slow cooker, is just too liquidy. The canned thick sweetened condensed milk is key for this recipe’s success. You could probably cook the dulce de leche over the stovetop using the homemade sweetened condensed milk, but that requires more attention. The whole point is a hands-off approach. For this. To learn. For some life transitions.


One year ago: sweet potato black bean burritos and cucumber agua frescas

Two years ago: portland, oregon – my new favorite place  and  coffee tapioca

Three years ago: smoky popcorn (the best!)

Four years ago: parmesan puddingbasil oilmushroom lasagna,  and  pumpkin-cranberry-almond cookies


slow cooker dulce de leche recipe
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 2 cans (14 ounces each) sweetened condensed milk*
  • 3 8-ounce jars with rings and lids (or 4 6-ounce jars). Make whatever jars you choose are short enough to be submerged by at least 1-inch of water in the slow cooker.
  • Enough water to submerge jars
  1. Pour the sweetened condensed milk among the 3 or 4 jars.
  2. Securely screw on rings and lids: don't go all crazy tight here but don't keep the rings too loose or else the water will flood in and ruin everything. You do not need to sterilize the jars nor do you need to have brand new lids/rings. Just make sure they are all in good condition. Place in each jar in the slow cooker so that there is no contact between them.
  3. Fill the slow cooker with water to cover at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 10 hours. Still not brown enough? Try another hour and look for the rich color.
  4. When cooking is complete, you have two options. You can remove the jars with canning tongs and allow them to cool to room temperature. Or, you can ladle out most of the hot water and allow the hot jars to cool until you can handle them. Once cool, refrigerate for up to 4 weeks. This is great served over vanilla ice cream.
Some tips from various trials: See those squat half pint jars I used? The low profile works well with most slow cookers, to ensure entire jar submersion. I have a large slow cooker but not an ultra deep one. Plus, the wide opening of these squat jars allows large spoons to scoop up large amounts of dulce de leche at a time.
Some of the rings may develop rust spots from soaking in the water. It won't affect the final taste. Just wipe the rust off with a kitchen towel.

* I tried soooo hard to make my own sweetened condensed milk in the slow cooker that would be thick enough to work in this recipe for dulce de leche. Multiple trials, even trying coconut milk, lids on/off, different heat settings, longer cook times, resulted in a very sweet, but thin, condensed milk. It did not work then I tried to make dulce de leche with it. I've detailed my trials but not included the verbosity here. It's not that important. It really was a hot mess.



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