Yes, you can make dulce de leche in the slow cooker. Slow cooker dulce de leche can also be referred to as slow cooker caramel, or crock pot caramel, however it's really dulce de leche. Dulce de leche is caramelized milk and sugar heated very slowly for several hours to make a thick, spreadable caramel sauce. I'm not sure who has multiple hours to spend sing milk and sugar to make caramel, but it's not me. Enter: the crock pot. Sweetened condensed milk in crockpot to make delicious caramel? I'm in.
Dulce de leche is sweetened condensed milk?
Sweetened condensed milk is made from milk and sugar. In sweetened condensed milk the water is removed, leaving a higher concentration of protein and fat. Sugar is then added before it is canned. If you were a large caramel manufacturer, you could by just condensed milk without the sugar. This would allow you to control the amount of sugar added back into the milk and in your caramel recipe. Grocery store sweetened condensed milk is everything you need to make dulce de leche at home, in one nice little can.
How to make dulce de leche in the crock pot:
- Fill the crockpot with the hot water from the sink. Make sure you leave the sink running long enough that it is the hottest water you have from the tap.
- Turn the crockpot to high.
- Peel off labels from sweetened condensed milk. DO NOT OPEN CANS.
- Place cans of condensed milk in crockpot. The cans should be fully submerged.
- Place lid on crockpot, cook for desired number of hours.
Dulce de leche caramelization varies greatly between 4-6 hours.
- Hour 4-5: Not much caramelization, still taste like milk. Fluid and pourable.
- Hours 6-7: Caramelization has started, caramel spread will not hold it's shape if piped in a pastry bag. Very light tasting caramel notes, retains some of the milk flavor.
- Hours 8: Caramel will hold not shape if piped in a pastry bag. Good for dips, spreads, and toppings. Medium caramelization flavor.
- Hours 9-10: Caramel will hold shape if piped in a pastry bag but is not hard. Deep caramelization notes. Excellent for filling cupcakes or fruit dip.
What crock pot / slower cooker did you use?
Honestly it is a generic slow cooker from Walmart! I got it years ago and it doesn't look like it's available anymore. Something like this slow cooker would work.
Where's the candy thermometer?
For this recipe, you cannot take the temperature of the caramel because it is in a sealed can when cooking. My best recommendation for this end point is to use time cooking.
Why are candy thermometers important when cooking other types of caramel?
Temperature gives you the final end point for cooking caramel because it is a hard stop. There are too many variables when cooking caramel that can't be standardized to ensure the recipe will give the final type of caramel desired each time. If the variables below exist in a recipe with just one ingredient and one cooking method, imagine all of the variables and outcomes with more involved recipes! A final temperature takes out the guess work and gives you the same end caramel every time.
Can I fill cupcakes and cakes with this caramel?
Absolutely! I recommend cooking for 9-10 hours for filling cupcakes and using this caramel as a layer on cakes. You can also use it as a topping for cookies!
Storage and shelf life
Unopened cans can be stored in the pantry for up to three months. Opened cans should have the caramel emptied into a different storage container and then stored in the fridge. Opened, refrigerated caramel will last for three days before the texture changes.
Video instructions for dulce de leche
Can I just buy premade dulce de leche?
Yes! You can find tons of dulce de leche on Amazon of course, but also take a look in local hispanic markets in your hometown. Some big chain grocery stores also carry it next to the canned milks.
Dulce de Leche
- 12 ounce can sweetened condensed milk you can make multiple at once if desired
- Fill crock pot with hot tap water
- Turn crock pot on high
- Remove labels from sweetened condensed milk cans
- Fully submerge cans in water. You need an inch of water overtop of cans.
- Put lid on crockpot
- Cook for desired number of hours, anywhere from 4-10
- Remove cans from slow cooker. They will be HOT, so use tongs or other heat protection.
- DO NOT OPEN CANS UNTIL COMPLETELY COOL. I like to leave mine for 12 hours cooling.
- Cans can be stored unopened in pantry for up to 3 months. Opened dulce de leech should be stored in an airtight container (not the can) in the fridge, and it will last up to 3 days.
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