Dulce de Leche

Peach Cake with Dulce de Leche Frosting

It’s my turn to host Project Pastry Queen this week so I picked cake. But that’s not just any cake, that’s a birthday cake!

A 50 something-th birthday cake for the man who made sure that I knew more about football at 11 than most grown men. The man who searched the entire neighborhood for his “missing” daughter, only to find her safe at home, asleep under her bed. The same man who thought it was “funny” to knock on her bedroom window on Halloween night wearing a Jason mask. (Spoiler alert. Not funny.)

I’m not sure how either of us survived to his 50 something-th birthday :P But we had a fancy cake to celebrate! A fancy cake studded with peach chunks and roasted pecans. A fancy cake filled and topped with dulce de leche frosting. And more roasted pecans.

The peach-pecan-dulce de leche combination is a winner. It’s great in ice cream form and wonderful when paired with a moist cake. I took a few liberties with the original recipe:
– I made half the recipe and baked it in 3 6-inch pans.
– I cut back the sugar by half.
– I replaced the suggested American-style buttercream frosting recipe with the dulce de leche swiss meringue buttercream recipe that we’ve eaten far too much of lately.
– I filled the cake with frosting instead of the suggested peach preserve-pecan mixture and decorated the cake with the leftover pecans.

The recipe as I made it is below. It’s a lot of butter and sugar, but to get a big 3 layer, 9-inch cake, simply double the cake recipe. The frosting recipe is enough to liberally fill and frost the cake, with leftovers. To frost a 9-inch cake, consider only increasing the frosting recipe by 50%.

Peach Cake with Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream

A moist peach cake topped with dulce de leche swiss meringue buttercream.

Ingredients

  • For the cake:
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup peeled, chopped peaches
  • For the frosting:
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, cubed and at room temp
  • 1/3 cup dulce de leche

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast 5-7 minutes until fragrant. Set aside to cool.
  3. Spray 3 6-inch cake pans with baking spray.
  4. Cream butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy.
  5. Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla and sour cream.
  6. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until just incorporated.
  7. Fold the peaches and 1/2 cup pecans into the batter.
  8. Divide the batter equally between the cake pans.
  9. Bake 18-20 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  10. Let cool 10 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a rack to cool.
  11. To make the frosting, whisk the egg whites and sugar over a simmering pot of water until the mixture reaches 160 degrees.
  12. Transfer to a stand mixer and whisk on high 10 minutes, until the meringue reaches room temperature (the bowl should feel neutral/barely warm when touched).
  13. Add butter, a few cubes at a time until all butter is mixed in.
  14. Add dulce de leche and mix until combined.
  15. Frost and fill the cake, and press the remaining pecans into the frosting.
  16. Store at room temperature for 2 days or up to a week in the fridge.

Notes

Yields: 8 servings

Source: Cake recipe adapted from The Pastry Queen

Estimated time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Having problems with your swiss meringue buttercream? Read how to fix it here.

Check out the other Project Pastry Queen members take on the peach cake:
Fake Ginger
Smells Like Home

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Homemade Dulce de Leche

Making homemade dulce de leche (which I never seem to pronounce correctly) is super easy and so much more economical than buying it at the store. And you have a number of options when it comes to method. A quick Google search will yield recipes that can be baked, cooked over double-boiler, microwaved, and even starting from scratch with milk and sugar.

Me? I use the method that I think makes the darkest and very, very best dulce de leche. It’s also the method that just about every site in that Google search cautions against: the homemade bomb method.

Okay, so it’s not really a bomb. But it could be one. And if you’re smart about it, and maybe even a little lucky, it’s not dangerous at all. I’ve made countless cans of dulce de leche using the boil-the-can method.

No bombs. No e’splosions. JUST KNOW THAT IT COULD HAPPEN.

Just rich, caramely goodness with endless possibilites: Use it in ice cream. On ice cream. Drizzled over a whipped cream-topped mug of hot chocolate. Eat it straight off the spoon. Sandwich it between two vanilla wafers. Bake it in fancy homemade candy bar squares. Drizzle it over donuts! Use it to fill a cupcake. Use it in cupcake frosting. You get the idea :)

Now go make your own dulce de leche!

Homemade Dulce de Leche

Making your own homemade dulce de leche is as easy as (carefully) simmering a pot of water.

Ingredients

  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk, label removed

Instructions

  1. Place a small washcloth or several folded paper towels in the bottom of a pot and set the cans on top.
  2. Pour water to reach ~2 inches over the can.
  3. Bring water to a simmer and cook covered for ~3 hours, checking every 30 minutes to make sure the water level doesn't evaporate below the lip of the can.
  4. Let cool, open the can, and use. Keep any leftovers refrigerated.

Notes

Yields: ~1 1/2 cups

Estimated time: 3 hours

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Homemade Moon Pies

When I hear “Moon Pies,” I smile.

Do you have a favorite childhood summer memory? I have several. Nearly all of them involve piling in the car, hair hanging in messy damp wringlets, the smell of chlorine heavy in the air. Mom would make the 20-minute drive to Humble (the H is silent!) to the bakery to get bread. And Moon Pies.

My other favorite memories involve picking blackberries, canning preserves at Grandma’s, and entire days spent running between the XLR8 and the Tidal Wave at Astroworld. There were Moon Pies then, too.

If you’re not familiar with Moon Pies, you’re really missing out. They’re graham-cracker like cookies filled with plain marshmallow and dunked in chocolate.

This is my week to host Project Pastry Queen. In the very back of the book, there is a recipe for “Mars Pies.” Mars Pies are a fancier, more complicated version of Moon Pies. While there are times when I’m all about the fancier and more complicated, I don’t think Moon Pies need to be either.

The original recipe for Mars Pies had 4 components and were not a sandwich cookie like the traditional Moon Pie:
Cookie base
A layer of Chocolate-Caramel Ganache
A layer of Chocolate Marshmallow
Chocolate coating

I changed up the recipe so that they would be a sandwich cookie. I chose to skip the ganache since Moon Pies were never that fancy. And it sounded horribly messy in the form of a sandwich cookie. I also chose to forgo the chocolate marshmallow filling for a plain marshmallow filling – and then changed my mind and made dulce de leche marshmallows. My Moon Pies were never that fancy either but, man, that was the best decision I made all day :) Especially the part where I dunked leftover marshmallow squares into melted chocolate and called that lunch.

The Moon Pies won’t actually take you too terribly long to make, just get organized. I made the cookie dough. While the dough was chilling, I cooked the marshmallow filling. I rolled the cookies while the marshmallows where whipping. I put the cookies in the freezer when they came out of the oven to quickly chill them, and then I piped on the marshmallow filling. After the filled cookies sat up in the fridge, I pulled out the chocolate for coating. For a 3 component dessert, they came together relatively quickly! (I said relatively.)

Homemade Moon Pies

The southern favorite Moon Pie gets a homemade makeover with dark chocolate and dulce de leche marshmallow filling.

Ingredients

  • For the cookies
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat or graham flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • For the Dulce De Leche Marshmallow Filling
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup dulce de leche (for plain marshmallows, substitute 1/3 cup water)
  • For Chocolate Coating
  • 8 oz dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp shortening

Instructions

  1. To make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
  2. Cream butter and the sugar on medium until fluffy.
  3. Add both flours, the salt, baking powder, and vanilla. Beat on medium until thoroughly combined.
  4. Turn out dough onto plastic wrap and press into a flat round. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes, just until firm enough to roll.
  5. On a floured surface, roll the dough to ~1/8- to 1/3-inch thick and use a 3-inch round cutter to cut 12 circles (knead the scraps together and re-roll to get all of the cookies).
  6. Place the cookie rounds on the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.
  7. Cookies must be at least room temp before filling so you can put them in the freezer to do this quickly.
  8. To make the marshmallow filling: Place 1/3 cup cold water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle gelatin over top.
  9. In a medium sauce pan, heat sugar, corn syrup, salt, and dulce de leche (or water) over medium heat and stir constantly until the temperature reaches soft ball stage (234F).
  10. Add the heated sugar mixture in a slow, thin stream to the stand mixer while on low. Increase speed to high and whip for ~15 minutes, until thickened and cooled (the side of your mixer bowl should feel like room temp).
  11. Transfer mixture to a pastry bag or large zipper bag (using a buttered spoon or spatula is helpful), and snip off one corner.
  12. Pipe 2-3 Tbsp of marshmallow onto the center 6 of the cookies.
  13. Place in the fridge for 10 minutes to set.
  14. Top with the other cookies.
  15. To make the chocolate coating: Heat chocolate and shortening in the microwave until completely melted.
  16. Holding the bottom cookie with your fingertips, dip the cookies in the chocolate and shake to remove excess. Set on a rack above a baking sheet to catch any drips (I didn't coat the very bottom with chocolate).
  17. Refrigerate until set. Store the cookies in an airtight container, each separated by wax paper or like I did - in the fridge on a plate.

Notes

Yields: 6 servings

Adapted from The Pastry Queen

Estimated time: 1 hour 30 minutes

You can check out the other Project Pastry Queen members Moon Pies:
Smells Like Home
I Heart Yummy

{ 34 comments }

Snickery Squares

The recipe for this week’s edition of Tuesdays with Dorie was selected by Erin of Dinner & Dessert. Erin selected Snickery Squares, a confection that promised to pay gourmet homage to my favorite candy bar, the Snickers.

Juiced-up beyond the recognizable $2 convenience store snack, Dorie’s version matched a simple shortbread crust with dulce de leche, caramelized peanuts, and a whopping almost half-pound of chocolate.

Snickery Squares

Judging from the mess in my kitchen, you’d swear that it was Thanksgiving and not simply March 1st. This was, by far, one of the messiest things I’ve made in a long time. And I don’t mean just for its size as an 8×8 dessert. The mess in my kitchen rivaled a frosted and decorated tiered cake or a holiday bakeathon :)

Snickery Squares

My husband and our friends really dug the Snickery Squares. I’d make them again. Some of my thoughts… I made my own dulce de leche using a method that has yet to provide timely results. I haven’t found any method yet that produces the results I’m looking for. I wished I’d had enough time to let the dulce cook longer but the Pastry Queen’s estimate of having good dulce in one hour seems to be wishful thinking, even after two hours.

Snickery Squares

There was too much chocolate. Write that down because you might never hear me say this again. I’m actually a little ashamed to even admit it :) I considered swapping out the bittersweet for semisweet because I knew a near half-pound of bittersweet chocolate would overpower the squares. I didn’t. And it did.

Not much of my slaving-over-the-cooktop dulce could be appreciated. To enjoy the simple shortbread crust or the candied peanut-filled dulce layer, you had to pick off the chocolate – an unusual step for me when enjoying dessert. Next time, I’ll either cut the amount of chocolate in half or go with a lower % chocolate. And it obviously wasn’t a deal breaker – there were no other complaints about the 1/4-inch slab of chocolate sitting on top.

Snickery Squares

The candied peanuts make this recipe. They also make a fantastic snack while you’re waiting on dulce to cook.

Snickery Squares

Snickery Squares

For the Dulce de Leche
2 cans sweetened condensed milk

For the Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

For the Filling
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp water
1 1/2 cups salted peanuts
1 1/2 cups dulce de leche (I used two full cans of homemade dulce)

For the Topping
7 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 8 inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet.

To Make the Dulce de Leche
Remove the wrappers from the cans of condensed milk. Puncture the top of the cans with one or two small holes (or just slightly pull the top back of cans with the removable tops) and place in a large pot of water. The water should come up 2/3 the way of the can (add water to the pot as necessary to maintain the water level). Simmer the cans for about 2.5 hours, or until the milk bubbling out of the can is a rich caramel color. Remove the cans from water and pour the dulce de leche into a bowl, whisking until smooth.

To Make the Crust
Toss the flour, sugar, powdered sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Toss in the pieces of cold butter and pulse about 12 times, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Pour the yolk over the ingredients and pulse until the dough forms clumps and curds-stop before the dough comes together in a ball.

Turn the dough into the buttered pan and gently press it evenly across the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough with a fork and slide the sheet into the oven. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, or until it takes on just a little color around the edges. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.

To Make the Filling
Have a parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheet at the ready, as well as a long-handled wooden spoon and a medium heavy bottomed saucepan. Put the sugar and water in the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Keeping the heat fairly high, continue to cook the sugar, without stirring, until it just starts to color.

Snickery Squares

Toss the peanuts and immediately start stirring. Keep stirring, to coat the peanuts with sugar. Within a few minutes, they will be covered with sugar and turn white – keep stirring until the sugar turns back into caramel. When the peanuts are coated with a nice deep amber caramel, remove the pan from the heat and turn the nuts out onto the baking sheet, using the wooden spoon to spread them out as best you can. Cool the nuts to room temperature.

When they are cool enough to handle, separate the nuts or break them into small pieces. Divide the nuts in half. Keep half of the nuts whole or in biggish pieces for the filling, and roughly chop the other half for the topping. Spread half the dulce de leche over the shortbread base, sprinkle over the whole candied nuts, and then spread the other half of dulce evenly in the pan. (My dulce was still very hot when I assembled the squares so it flowed and spread very easily.)

To Make the Topping
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove chocolate from the heat and gently stir in the butter, stirring until it is fully blended into the chocolate. Pour the chocolate over the dulce de leche, smoothing it with an offset spatula, then sprinkle over the rest of the peanuts. Slide the pan into the fridge to set the topping, about 20 minutes; if you’d like to serve the squares cold, keep them refrigerated for at least 3 hours before cutting. Cut into 16 squares. Because my dulce was hot, it took quite a while for my chocolate to set in the fridge. We cut the squares with a hot, dry knife after about two hours.

Yields: 16 2-in squares
Source: Adapted from Baking, From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (2006)

Last week: Walnut Sour Cream Biscuits

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