Dulce de leche, that divine Latin American caramel, isn’t hard to make; it just takes a bit of attention. Most recipes begin with a can of sweetened condensed milk. Rest assured, this is entirely authentic. There are five ways to make it: in the can, in a pressure cooker, in a saucepan, in the oven, or in a microwave.
The classic in-the-can method is simple: Place an unopened can (or do a few at once) of sweetened condensed milk in a pot, well covered with water, and bring the water to a boil. Keep at a low boil for two to three hours, making sure the water level always stays above the top of the can (if the can isn’t submerged, it may explode). The longer it cooks, the thicker the dulce de leche will be; after two hours, you’ll be able to drizzle it, and after three hours, it will be thick enough to sandwich cookies. Make sure the can is thoroughly cool before you open it.
You can use a pressure cooker for a faster variation on the in-the-can method with no worries about water level: Submerge the can completely in the water and pressure-cook for 20 to 30 minutes.
To make it in a saucepan: Pour the condensed milk in a saucepan and cook it over low heat, stirring fairly constantly until the milk achieves the consistency you want. Another option is to make Mexican goat’s milk cajeta, which has a unique tang and is made from goat’s milk and sugar.
In the oven: Pour the condensed milk in a shallow baking dish, cover with foil, and bake in a water bath at 350 degrees, stirring every 20 or 30 minutes for a couple of hours or until the consistency seems right. Whisk it when it’s done to get any lumps out.
In the microwave: Pour the condensed milk in a bowl that can hold at least twice the volume of the milk. Microwave in five-minute intervals, stirring each time, and watch carefully, as it will foam up as it cooks. Cook to desired consistency.