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 – 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:
The 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.
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.
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 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?
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.So 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?