Also known as dulce de leche, this dessert is divine. It’s thick and creamy and has a wonderful caramel flavor. Vendors on the streets of Colombia sell it along with a type of wafer known as obleas, which basically looks like an unrolled waffle cone. You smear the arequipe on the obleas and eat open faced or put two obleas together like an arequipe sandwich. You can also dip fruit and cookies into arequipe, or warm it up and drizzle it over ice cream, bananas foster, or hot apple crisp. The grocery stores in Colombia sell it in tubs of various sizes, including single servings which my students would bring in their lunches.
This is one of those dishes that you have to watch carefully while it’s cooking. It can go from almost done to burned in a nanosecond, so don’t be tempted to wander off. You don’t need to hover, just keep an eye on it. This will take a little over two hours to make, so plan your day accordingly. It’s a fun weekend project, though. And for people like me who have no Colombian grocery nearby, this is the only way to get arequipe without paying exorbitant shipping prices.
[Updated: October 2, 2008]
Adapted from Recetas de Casa Vieja: Our Native Cooking, by Julia Mora de Duran.
Makes about 24 ounces.
6 quart/litre pot with a heavy bottom
32 ounces (~ 1 litre) milk
20 ounces (567 g) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1. Dissolve the baking soda and cornstarch in 1/4 cup (~60 mil) of milk, then combine all of the milk and sugar in the pot.
2. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, and then bring it to a slow boil. Watch it closely. The color will gradually change from milky white to golden brown and the consistency will thicken. Continue cooking until the mixture coats the spoon and begins to set up as it cools on the spoon, about 2 hours. Finished temperature should be 220° F/104° C. It will look runny in the pot, but will thicken nicely as it comes to room temperature.
3. Pour into a bowl. Don’t scrape the pot or you’ll have crunchy bits in the arequipe. Allow to cool, and then serve. Store in the refrigerator.
The original recipe calls for 8 botellas de leche y 5 libras de azucar (8 bottles of milk and 5 pounds of sugar). That’s a lot of arequipe! So I reduced the recipe substantially to get an amount that would be more manageable. Even so, this recipe makes enough for a party, about 24 ounces, so consider cutting in half for a smaller amount (adjust cooking time accordingly).
Photo Credit: Obleas vendor photo courtesy Adriana © 2005