There is an old adage that says there is no limit to the things you can accomplish when you are supposed to be doing something else. And boy, do I resemble that adage!
Well, I would, if I was actually doing something productive while avoiding PhD things I needed to do. In order to not completely waste my time, a few days ago I decided to turn my stove on for what felt like the first time in months. Weeks, for sure.
At first my excuse for not cooking was that I was too busy with class work to cook, then that I was too busy with getting ready for comprehensive exams to cook, then I just ran out of excuses but continued not to cook. You see where this is going, right?
I am a lazy procrastinator.
Given my sweet tooth, it ought to be no surprise that the thing that prompted me to turn on the stove was a sweet treat, and I must have been in real need of some comfort food because I opted to make Cremitas de Leche, a quintessential Cuban treat that tastes like heaven in a cloyingly sweet little bundle.
I had these relatively infrequently growing up as I was still a young child when Cuba started what is known as the Special Period (sounds fancy, but it was really a period of intense food scarcity), but I had them pretty often once I moved to Miami.
Since I moved to New York, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make these, and some weeks ago I found a recipe online, so I decided to try it.
Unfortunately, that recipe did not yield a product that tasted anything like what Cremitas de Leche are supposed to taste like, but I was not deterred. I decided to wing it and experiment with a different method, and, alas, that worked out. My version tastes exactly like the cremitas you can buy at just about any shop in Miami.
Before I move on to the recipe, I want to make a quick note about measurements. For the most part, Cubans cook by sight, without specific measurements. When they do use measurements, it tends to be a “can,” meaning an empty can of condensed milk, which in Cuba is always the same size (the same size as a regular condensed milk can here in the US). So, if my mom was giving you a recipe for a Cuban cake, she’d like say “one can of this, one can of that, half a can of the other thing” etc.
In this particular recipe, except for the salt, all the measurements are one can, or just equal parts by volume of everything. For the sake of the non-Cubans reading this, blog, I give the amounts of sugar and whole milk in cups.
Cremitas de Leche
1 can condensed milk
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Peel the label off the can of condensed milk, put the unopened can in a deep pot and cover with water. Bring the the water to a boil, reduce the head and simmer for about 2.5; no need to be precise here. The water level should remain above the can; add more hot water if needed. This will make dulce de leche, or caramel. Remove the can from the water and let it cool until you can handle it without burning your hands. You can skip this step by purchasing already made dulce de leche or caramel, which comes in cans the same size as condensed milk and have been processed in much the same way, except on an industrial scale. Some brands that sell this are La Lechera and Carnation.
In the meantime, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Open the can of cooked condensed milk and scrape the dulce de leche into a pot. Add the whole milk, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat; lower the heat and simmer, stirring frequently to prevent burning, for 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir constantly and vigorously to cool for another 10 minutes. If the mixture starts getting too thick, you can stop sooner.
Working quickly, drop small spoonfuls of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Small is good, these sweets are very sweet and a little goes a long way.
Let the cremitas cool completely before eating.
How many cremitas you get depends on how big you make them.
Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I am perfectly aware they look like poop, but believe me, they do not taste like poop!
If you are looking for a healthy treat, look elsewhere. If you are looking for deliciousness, enjoy!