Dulce de leche cortada

I’m a little stubborn in some ways.  If at first I don’t succeed, I’ll try and try again until it is physically and mentally impossible.  There are recipes I try over and over again because I just can’t get them right.   I’ve tried making dulce de leche cortada four times and each time, for unknown reasons, I failed.  Dulce de leche cortada is like regular dulce de leche caramel but its texture is chunky, kind of like cottage cheese.  It is a Cuban dish but other countries in the Caribbean eat it as well.  (Plus Venezuela, which is close enough.)  You “cut” the milk into curds by adding lemon juice or vinegar before caramelizing it.  I had half a liter of milk I needed to get rid of so I decided to give it another good ole try.

I used a recipe from Three Guys from Miami but I changed a couple things and I cut the portions down to roughly half a liter of milk, but I got lazy with the real math and I made it too sweet.  Other than that, it turned out right, finally.  At least I think so.  I may have caramelized it too much…I ate it after it cooled for about 20 minutes (do NOT by any means touch this when it’s hot) and it was soft and warm and easy to eat, but after refrigerating it, which is what most recipes called for, it became much more like caramel candy, which is not bad, but I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be this way.  When my great aunt Tia Edesa made it for our family reunion last summer, I could easily spoon it to my mouth, so I’m not sure I got it completely right.  She doesn’t use the eggs, she just uses milk, lemon or vinegar, and sugar.  Hers also had a much lighter color than mine and the pictures I found online, so she didn’t caramelize it as much.  Makes sense.

Nevertheless, it’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to getting it right.  Although this dessert is by no stretch of the imagination healthy, I did make it with local and/or organic ingredients.   It’s a long process, so I wouldn’t quite recommend it, but if you’re curious, go for it.  I think I would rather have regular dulce de leche.  (You can even make it from canned condensed milk.) You don’t really see this stuff very often; I had never heard of this or seen it in ANY cookbooks or anywhere until my mom and dad told me about it.  I’ll have to make it for them sometime to get their opinions on how I can make it right, if I’m missing the mark.  Knowing my stubbornness, I won’t rest until it’s right.  Which reminds me that I need to try making habichuelas con dulce again.

Here’s a series of pics showing the transformation:

After it's been simmering for a little while...
After I added the frothy eggs...getting really "curdley" now...
The liquid is evaporating and it's getting darker...should I perhaps have stopped here?
The finished dulce, garnished with a cinnamon stick



13 thoughts on “Dulce de leche cortada”

  1. This is a favorate in the island of Trinidad, we make it for christmas.
    Never heard of it being made with eggs though.
    Boil whole milk and reduce to half , add vinigar 2tblsp) to curddle, continue to cook for 15 min, then add sugar as desired(less IS more here)., continue cooking until curddles look golden and grainy.

    1. I finally tried it using your recipe, and I think it turned out pretty well! Thanks so much for sharing! I’m going to write an updated post soon.

  2. with vinigar? doen’t it taste sour then? I have always heard with lemon but may be the new kinds of milk which are difficult to curd is better with vinigar.
    Please let me know.

    1. Well luckily it didn’t taste sour. I have heard of people doing it with lemon too. I was following the recipe I found. I’m hoping to try another version soon because I wasn’t entirely happy with how this one turned out.

  3. I am from Cuban heritage and my Mom would make this when I was a child. If the milk was good she would “cut” it with vinegar. I asked her a few years before she passed away, how she made it and she told me and I wrote it down, best I could. I’ve made it maybe two times and it turned out pretty close to hers. It takes a lot of milk and time to make it. Hers would always be kind of light in color like your picture before the last. I remember that wonderful taste with the sweetness mixed with the vinegar. It was both yummy warm and cold. She only used milk, vinegar and sugar, nothing else. Brings back great childhood memories!

    1. Thanks for sharing! I just remade it the other day and I think it turned out better. It’s lighter in color and has a sweet tanginess. (Going to put up an updated post soon!) Just wondering, what kind of texture did your mom’s dulce de leche cortada have once it was done? Was it easy to spoon up or very very sticky?

  4. Hey Steph,

    Can you tell me how long it took the milk to curdle just using the lemon peel? Or did the curdling only become apparent “After it’s been simmering for a little while…”?

    I am trying to make half of the same recipe from the Three Guys from Miami but after 3 days the approx 4 liters (1 gallon) of milk has yet to show any signs of curdling. I used 4 pieces of lemon peel from about a half a lemon.

    Thanks in advance – Ed

    1. Hm, it took a day when I used the Three Guys Recipe, but I used more lemon peel and some lemon juice even though I used half the milk. When I put some in spoon, I could see tiny little curdles in the milk.

      The fastest way to curdle the milk is using a tablespoon or two of vinegar. When I made this again recently, I just used milk, vinegar, and sugar. I added vinegar (and sugar) to the milk after it had simmered for a while and it curdled instantly. The final product doesn’t taste sour but it has a tangy sweet taste.

      Hope this helps, and good luck! Let me know how it goes.

  5. Hello folks. I NEVER chime in but being Cubana and knowing THIS dessert very well I thought I would add some tips.
    First, I do not know the Miami guys recipe but you need NOT wait to curdle the milk any length of time, the process happens on the stove as the dessert is cooking.
    There are many recipes for this because it is essentially ‘un postre casero’ which means it changes from home to home.
    The other thing is the color changes with the ingredients you use. If you use farm fresh eggs and milk it tends to have more omegas and that changes the color.
    Being a ‘homey’ dessert folks like it different ways. The cottage cheese analogy is PERFECT, some like big curds, others like small curds, some like dry cottage cheese others like it with more liquid.
    I hope this all helps clarify points!

    So I just went to visit the three guys recipe INGREDIENTS:
    2 gallons milk
    5 eggs
    8 pieces lemon peel
    2 cups sugar — 3 cups if you dare!
    1 pinch salt

    My mothers recipe is for 1 gallon milk to 6 eggs (the eggs ‘set’ the milk) and three cups sugar(the sugar makes the syrup). To curdle use the juice of lemon (Meyer adds wonderful flavor) or Three TBSP vinegar. It doesn’t take much to curdle milk. ONE piece of peel adds a subtle lemon flavor too much peel might bitter the mixture and take too long to curdle the milk.I have used less sugar but that lowers the syrup factor and keeps the curds softer (also takes longer to reach the syrup stage) The firmer it gets the more sugar you used (and the longer you cooked it) Like cookies the mixture gets harder as it cools so keep that in mind) Salt? Never. But Cinnamon stick? YES!

    1. You’re a BOSS Alicia! Thanks for commenting and for your input. It’s been a while since I’ve revisited or reattempted dulce de leche cortada but you’re inspiring me to give it a go again!

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