Confiture de Lait (caramel milk jam)

April 15, 2009

The French call it Confiture de Lait – a luscious caramel milk jam from Normandy, France that can reduce any sane person into a quivering mess. It’s similar to the more commonly known milk caramel Dulce de Leche although there are subtle differences between the two – the use of vanilla cited as one of them. Confiture de Lait is made from boiling whole milk and sugar for hours; rather than the common Dulce de Leche method of boiling metal tins of condensed milk. I rather save the condensed milk to eat with a spoon and frankly the thought of boiling metal cans scares the crap out of me. And imagine! You’ll never need to worry about exploding cans and flying metal trajectories. There are just too many nightmares about picking metal shards out of my forehead. (Plus shaving a caramel-covered dog is such a pain!).

There are so many uses for this milk jam than I know what to do with. Use it simply as a topping over ice cream, sandwich cookies, spread it on sweet bread or buns (as the French do!) or just eat it with a spoon right out of the fridge. If you are using it for baking and in other recipes, cook it for a shorter amount of time to get a runnier consistency for ease of use. Nevertheless, the caramel will soften with a blast in the microwave.

And before you ask, skim milk burns like buggery, so yes, it has to be full fat milk or nothing. And please, please, wait until it’s cooled before you dig in (it’s tough but doable!). Believe me scalded lips are just not fun.

Confiture de Lait (caramel milk jam)

Ingredients

(enough to make one jar – around 250-375ml)

1 Litre (4 cups) whole milk
300g caster sugar
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

In a pot large enough to fit the liquid with at least 10-15cm from the top of the pot to the level of the milk, add milk and stir in the sugar, salt, baking soda and vanilla extract.


Turn heat to med-high and bring the milk mixture to a boil without stirring. Once you see the milk start to boil and bubble slightly, get ready to turn the heat right down because the milk may froth and rise if it is overboiled.

Once it’s boiled, turn the heat down to the lowest (until it’s barely a simmer) and skim the foam. Continue to simmer uncovered for around 2 – 2.5 hours, stirring constantly (around every 10 minutes or so is best if you’re free) and skimming the foam when necessary.

1: milk starts to foam as it heats up
2: getting frothy and rising as it boils
3: overboiling will cause the milk to rise fast (and spill over so be careful)
4: bringing it down to a simmer

It’s best to cook it as low and slow as possible. If the heat is too high, the milk will boil and form a skin that won’t disappear no matter how much you whisk it.

Check the consistency at about 2 hours. I usually stop it now when I want a runnier caramel to use in other recipes. Cook it a little longer if you want a thicker jam to use as a spread or to sandwich cookies. Just remember that it’ll thicken up more while it cools and when it’s in the fridge.

Top row L-R: starting to colour at about one hour; thickening up at around 1.5 hours; at nearly 2 hours
Bottom row L-R: ta-da! Once it looks gloopy, it’s ready; checking consistency on the spoon; a frantic whisking will smooth things out!

Once it’s thick and gluggy and just about ready, you need to keep an eye on it to prevent it from scorching on the bottom of the saucepan. When it’s ready, take it off the heat and whisk the confiture until it’s glossy and smooth.

Pour into a clean jar and cool uncovered. When it has cooled completely, stick the lid on and store it in the fridge (it should keep for around 1 to 3 weeks).