The Dulce De Leche Diaries – Argentina’s Sweetest Treat

For most visitors heading to Argentina, the eagerly anticipated culinary objects of desire are undoubtedly steak and Malbec with most people grasping their carinvorous molars into a plump slab of meat within hours of arrival. As a lady who neither drinks alcohol nor eats beef, however, what was left for me to lust after on my trip? The truth is, I am a confectioner’s dream target market and had been salivating for weeks about trying Dulce de Leche on a continent that devours it. Pumpkin’s oh-so-inaccurate claim it is in fact just “caramel with a fancy name” fell on deaf (and unimpressed) ears.

Dulce De Leche bannerDulce de Leche – Argentina’s candy of milk

When he made the suggestion that I write an entire post on Dulce De Leche, I think he was in fact joking, poking fun at my mission to sample just about anything that contained it. Sarcasm aside though, I thought it was a moment of sheer genius. Dulce de Leche, which literally translates to “candy of milk”, is  circulating in the blood of the Argentinian people, so prevalent is it in whichever direction you look. So after a calorie-infused fortnight in Argentina, I present to you:

The Dulce de Leche Diaries:

wpid-img_20140811_124559.jpgThe original Dulce de Leche sauce

Where it all began. This can be eaten on toast, in desserts, used in other recipes or quite frankly, just by the tablespoon. As a dentist’s nemesis, it is so naughty that it should be illegal. The San Telmo Market had several stalls featuring 0.5 – 1kg jars, starting from 3USD but as this was the freshest and creamiest stuff, it had a short shelf life, which even I would have struggled to bypass. Instead, I opted for a smaller jar with a longer shelf life from a deli in Puerto Madero – only time will tell whether I need have bothered with the long life.

Dulce de Leche crepe

Another fabulous San Telmo street food find and just two days before pancake day, the rumbles in my tummy drew us like a compass towards this crepe within hours of landing. At only 20 Argentinian pesos per crepe, this was made in front of my eyes by an elderly local with a smile even sweeter than the indulgent crepe he was serving.crepe stall San Telmo Market

Dulce de Leche Icecream

I wasn’t a total novice to this flavour, having sampled it at Freggo London, which is the closest I have discovered to Authentic Argentinian icecream (helado) in London. But rarely have I seen one flavour sub-categorised into so many offshoots. Most ice cream shops (heladerias) will serve the original but also offer a tempting range of twists including Granizado (chocolate chips), brownie pieces, chocolate, coconut and meringue to name but a few. After a few scoops of the classic, I persuaded myself to branch out.

dulce de leche chocolate flavour menu choicesAlfajores 

Where do I begin?! These crumbly, melt in the mouth , shortbread-like biscuits are sandwiched together with a layer of Dulce de Leche to form perhaps the most moreish sweet bite I’ve had in a long time. It’s light enough that you don’t feel sick, sweet enough to leave you craving more and small enough to delude you into a guilt-free bubble. Hence, it became a daily fixture on the holiday menu and as it’s really more a biscuit, I exempted it from the daily dessert count. Naturally. The first picture is one I had in Argentina and the second is one I made in my kitchen back in London a few weeks later! (And mine tasted almost as good – hurrah!)

Dulce de Leche Breakfast Tart

Sandwiched between two layers of tart and topped with dessicated coconut, these triangular nuggets of heaven were to be found on the daily breakfast buffet menu (and on my plate) at the Esplendor Hotel in El Calafate, Patagonia. There is something deeply dangerous about spotting an item so tantalising in a buffet environment.dulce de leche hotel breakfast

Dulce de Leche waffle

Another breakfast find, this time at the boutique Bobo hotel in Palermo SoHo, Buenos Aires, this waffle promised red berries, whipped cream and Dulce de Leche. Although the waffle batter was bouncy and light, not overly sweetened and overall a good choice, I was barely able to taste the Dulce de Leche. Or had I just become immune?waffle dulce de leche breakfast Bobo Hotel Buenos Aires

Chocolate & Dulce de Leche dessert 

Finally, the one to beat came in the form of a moist chocolate sponge with layer upon layer of silky Dulce de Leche precision hidden seductively inside. My sweet trophy of the trip (of 2014 in fact) went to this round of decadence, which I found at the Smeterling Patisserie in Buenos Aires. I wish wish wish I had paused to take a photo of the creamy layering on the inside but some delights are too divine to stand still for the pressures of blogging, Instagram and social media. Some moments are just to be enjoyed. And that’s exactly what I did.Dulce de Leche cake Smeltering Patisserie Buenos AiresSo there you have it – a mini tour of Argentina through a Dulce de Leche lens, a treat we indulged in so frequently that Pumpkin abbreviated it to “DDL”. Time to hit the gym.

Where in the world have you enjoyed the sweetest delicacies?

49 thoughts on “The Dulce De Leche Diaries – Argentina’s Sweetest Treat

  1. I’ve been wanting to try Dulce de Leche for years, but so far I’ve never succeeded. Guess I’ll just have to make my own with a bit of chocolate mousse. Looks fantastic.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 12, 2014 — 9:21 pm

      YUM. Dulce de Leche with chocolate mousse?! I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for your recipe Mette if you do that 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  2. Dulce de Leche really is ridiculously good – did you find yourself with a favourite? (and ‘with a spoon’ is perfectly acceptable in my book!)

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 12, 2014 — 9:22 pm

      Very uncharacteristically, when it came to Dulce de Leche, I was happiest with the original though let’s be honest – I’d happily eat just about anything within a 10 mile radius of the stuff! Thanks for commenting Emma 🙂

  3. I had a similar experience in Argentina (and the rest of South America come to think of it)… unable to drink red wine due to phenomenal migraines I get from the stuff, dulce de leche became my poison of choice. My constant search for it drove Mr Man insane but every bite of it was worth every ounce of irritation or argument caused. Best spreadable sweet thing on earth. Besides – happy wife = happy life!!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 12, 2014 — 9:25 pm

      EXACTLY Kat. We said “for better or for worse”. We never said anything about impatience or sarcasm towards Godly confectionery 🙂

  4. We have it here in France too Shikha, I should have put it on the table while you were here!!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 12, 2014 — 9:28 pm

      WHAT?! Right, I best start looking up flights to come and see you again!! For the company of course (not just for the dulce de leche!!) 😉

  5. Oh my goodness! I’m staying up right now doing some late-night blogging and, after reading your post, Shikha, I am STARVING for some dulce de leche. Everything on your post sounds (and looks) delicious!

    xxx

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 12, 2014 — 9:31 pm

      Thank you Kasha! I’m usually a late night blogger too and a sweet snack on the side always goes down a treat! These dulce de leche treats were delicious but it’s not hard to see why I put on weight in Argentina! 🙂 x

  6. I loooved the dulce de leche when I was in that part of the world too!! Especially the alfajaores… now you’re making me crave some and there’s none to be found in Europe!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 12, 2014 — 9:32 pm

      Tell me about it Anna!! Considering London seems to have foodie delights from all over the world, Alfajores are surprisingly hard to come by! I’ve given up looking and instead resorted to baking my own – 2 successful batches and a counting! Hope you manage to locate some in Europe 🙂

      1. Omg you learned to make your own?! Now that’s even more of an incentive to return to London and have that meetup!!

        1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 15, 2014 — 9:09 pm

          Haha, great! Just give me the heads up and there’ll be a fresh batch waiting for you 🙂

  7. A dulce de leche breakfast tart?! That sounds like a deliciously decadent way to start off the day. I’m headed to South America this week and will definitely be looking for some dulce de leche treats!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 12, 2014 — 9:35 pm

      I hope you have a wonderful time out there Cassandra! It was my first visit this year and I just loved it and believe me when I say, you really won’t have to look very hard to find these treats – they are everywhere!! And yes, rather worryingly for the waistline, these breakfast tarts were in abundant supply at the buffet 😀

  8. Hi,
    For those craving for dulce de leche back home, you can easily make an ersatz from condensed milk! Just cook it for 2 to 4 hours and your done. Not as good as the real thing, but it’s a substitute!!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 12, 2014 — 9:45 pm

      Thank you SO much for this tip Aurelia!! I will definitely be trying this out and I have a feeling that those who share my love of Dulce de Leche will be very happy to read this too 🙂

      1. It saved me a couple of times 🙂 I have an Argentinean husband who cannot live without dulce de leche 🙂

        I just posted the detailled recipe on my blog for those who need more instructions:
        http://www.blog.palosantohotel.com/2014/08/12/make-homemade-dulce-de-leche/

        1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 15, 2014 — 9:07 pm

          Thanks so much – your Argentinean husband is so lucky to have somebody who is cooking him all these lovely gourmet sweet treats! I’ve been checking out your blog – the recipe looks lovely and simple so will definitely try it out – I only wish I’d seen your blog before I went to Buenos Aires – loads of great tips 🙂

  9. I’ve heard this stuff is delicious, hope to get over there this year and try some for myself!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 12, 2014 — 9:46 pm

      It’s so delicious Becky – since coming back, even the spreads I used to love like peanut butter or Nutella just don’t taste quite the same! Just make sure you bring back at least a jar for home 🙂

  10. I definitely do not want the salad I made for my lunch. A sweet treat is now in order. This all sounds so delicious! I’m so upset that we only had the one night in Argentina and didn’t get to gobble all of this deliciousness. I’ll just have to make do with you baking some of it for me instead 😉

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 15, 2014 — 9:06 pm

      Thanks Ayla! I must confess that even in the photo I’ve put in here of the ones I baked myself, it was actually just the biscuit bit I baked and the sauce in the middle was straight out of the jar that’s also in the photo! Although thanks to some of the comments in this thread, looks like I might be able to have a go at making it now! 🙂

      1. Ooh yes do. I’ll be your official taster 😉

  11. I must admit that I haven’t heard of this stuff before but it sounds lovely. Crepes, biscuits or waffles would be a big plus for me.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 15, 2014 — 9:11 pm

      Oh it’s just divine – if you have a sweet tooth, you will LOVE this stuff! Since returning home to England, I went back to peanut butter, chocolate spread etc etc but I just can’t get over my love affair with this stuff! Probably best for the waistline that it’s not available all that easily here 😀 Thanks so much for commenting!

  12. Wow! Some mouth watering pics here! I wish I could bite photos and taste these 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 17, 2014 — 9:48 pm

      Hehe, thanks! I’m kind of glad I can’t bite photos and taste them you know – it’s probably about the only thing stopping me from becoming obese!! 🙂 Thanks so much for reading!

  13. You’re killing me with all of these goodies here! Although I would love to try Dulce de Leche Icecream, the waffles and breakfast tart look delicious as well. I didn’t know you have such a sweet tooth!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 17, 2014 — 9:49 pm

      Thanks Agness – oh boy, I WISH I didn’t have such a sweet tooth believe me, why can’t I just crave celery sticks and carrots?! The breakfast tart, I agree, was fantastic, probably one of my favourites on this list and as it was buffet, you can imagine how much I went to town! Thanks for reading 🙂

  14. Haha! Way to go, Shikha 🙂 This is what my diary would look like too. You really did justice to DDL! Now I’m just dying to try that Dulce de Leche layered chocolate sponge. Whenever I’m in London next, you have to fix my sweet tooth 😀

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 17, 2014 — 9:52 pm

      Haha, when I’m wearing dentures in about 5 years time, I think I’ll look back to these diaries with regret! 😀 That chocolate sponge with the layers of DDL was just heavenly – I would pay huge sums of money if they could send it across the globe to me here in London! And yes, whenever you’re next in town, I can already think of at least 5 places off the top of my head for dessert that I have a feeling you would just love! 🙂

  15. Wow, every single one of these delights sounds delicious! The crepe, the waffles, the biscuits – I want to try them all. This definitely did deserve a post all to itself!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 17, 2014 — 9:54 pm

      Thanks Catherine! I know he said it as a total joke but I’m so glad my husband suggested a whole post on this – he couldn’t have been any more right about it and from the looks of things, I clearly ate enough Dulce de Leche to warrant it 😀

  16. Oh wow! I’m ready with my spoon for some Dulce de Leche sauce. I’m so glad you published a post dedicated to this glorious sweetness! I’ve tried the alfajores and ice cream at Freggos too, but you can’t beat the taste of famous dishes when you’re actually out in the country. Good round up!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 19, 2014 — 6:22 pm

      Thanks Char 🙂 glad you’re as much of a fan as I am & hope it didn’t leave you too hungry! I’ve actually not tried the alfajores at freggo – I’ll have to make a special trip into town for that!

  17. I will acknowledge a very big weakness for dulce de leche. It is one of my favorite man-made items on Earth and I am happy to spread it generously on any surface. But some warm dulce de leche crepes…that is an even higher level!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 19, 2014 — 6:23 pm

      I agree Dave – warm dulce de leche on crepes sounds like dessert heaven! I never thought I’d be such a massive fan of something found in a jar! Thanks so much for reading 🙂

  18. Haven’t been to Argentina yet, but they have something very similar in Chile called manjar. It’s used the same way – in alfajores, ice cream, as a topping. So good!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) August 19, 2014 — 6:32 pm

      Aaah that sounds interesting and really similar actually – I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for that (although still trying to work off the weight from this trip!!) 😀

  19. I was on a holiday in Argentina last year and not being a meat eater, missed on the steak there. However we were high on Malbec all throughout our journey,The highpoint was a dinner with wine from the Roche winery.Regret we missed out on the dulce de leche. Thanks for the info .
    arni narendran mumbai

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) October 3, 2014 — 4:32 am

      Thanks so much for commenting Arni – so glad to hear you enjoyed Argentina too! I keep hearing how wonderful Malbec was and the Roche dinner sounds fantastic! Dulce de leche is delicious but if you missed out on it there, hopefully you can probably track it down at an international deli or supermarket especially in a big city like Mumbai 🙂

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