BraveTart: Sweetened Condensed Milk

BraveTart: Sweetened Condensed Milk

[Photographs and video: Vicky Wasik]

Homemade sweetened condensed milk traditionally requires ultra-low heat and up to six hours of constant stirring, but with a splash of heavy cream to prevent scorching, I can crank up the heat and be done in forty five minutes flat. The result is thicker, creamier, and more luscious than anything from a can, with a rich dairy flavor and subtle notes of toffee.

Reprinted from BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts with permission from W. W. Norton.


Why It Works

  • A splash of cream stabilizes the milk so it can be reduced in just 45 minutes without curdling.
  • Cream adds a concentrated dose of lactose for better flavor via Maillard browning.
  • Toasted sugar reduces sweetness while adding complexity.
  • Stirring and scraping prevents the milk solids from over-cooking.
  • Avoiding acidic ingredients will prevent the milk from curdling.
  • Yield:Makes 2 cups or 19 ounces
  • Active time: 45 minutes
  • Total time:45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 32 ounces milk, any percentage will do (4 cups; 910g)
  • 6 ounces heavy cream (3/4 cup; 170g)
  • 7 ounces plain or toasted sugar (1 cup; 195g)
  • 1/8 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use about half as much by volume or the same weight
  • Aromatics such as a vanilla bean, split lengthways, or cinnamon stick (optional)

Directions

  1. 1.

    Combine milk, cream, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean or cinnamon (if using) in a 5-quart stainless steel saucier. If you have a scale, weigh the pot and ingredients together so you can digitally track the reduction. Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a heat resistant spatula, until the milk begins to simmer, about 12 minutes.

  2. 2.

    Continue simmering an additional 30 minutes, scraping continuously to prevent a milky buildup from forming around the sides. When the thickened milk-syrup suddenly turns foamy, it’s almost done. Keep cooking and stirring until the foam subsides and the dairy has condensed to exactly 2 cups or 19 ounces. If using a scale, the pot will weigh 26 ounces less than when you started.

  3. 3.

    Troubleshooting: Should the dairy reduce too far, top it off with enough milk to reach 2-cups or 19-ounces, then remove aromatics and blitz with an immersion blender to emulsify.

  4. 4.

    Pour into an airtight container, seal to prevent evaporation, and refrigerate until needed, up to 1 month. To mimic the consistency of canned milk, bring to room temperature before use.