Today (October 11th) marks the annual worldwide celebration of something that makes all our lives a little sweeter here in Argentina: dulce de leche. What better way to honor such a special occurrence than by eating (and drinking) everything smothered, filled, and combined with this ridiculously saccharine, yet no less marvelous, creation?
As an amateur connoisseur, my sweet tooth has no bounds. Therefore, I brought it upon myself to do some extensive research on the nation’s beloved treasure and list some of my favorite DDL-infused pleasures. There’s a reason why I’m going to leave Argentina seven pounds heavier.
First and foremost, where did this taste bud wonder come from? It’s a question with a much-debated answer. One of the most popular stories is about how one afternoon back in 1829, Juan Manuel de Rosas and his political opponent, Juan Lavalle, met to sign a peace treaty at La Caledonia ranch out in Cañuelas.
Legend has it that the maid was preparing hot milk with sugar in another room and went in search for General Lavalle, who’d fallen asleep in a hammock. In that time, the milk caramelized into a thick brown paste and when Lavalle had finished his little game of hide and seek, he tried it and loved it. Since that day it’s been one of Argentina’s most treasured creations.
This is quite a cute and heartwarming story, so I’d like to think in my mind that it’s true.
However, the likes of Daniel Balmaceda disagrees, suggesting that something similar was found in the Philippines around the sixteenth century, after the Spanish conquistadors claimed them as their own. #buzzkill
So let’s get down to the good stuff and without further ado, here are some dulce de leche-drenched treats that are perfect to commemorate World Dulce de Leche Day.
Baileys with Dulce de Leche
This irresistible Irish cream liqueur is the kind of drink I have when I’m at home for Christmas, but since spotting it on the shelves in one of the local supermarkets here in Buenos Aires, it’s become more of a monthly treat.
Yes, I know – not very Argentine.
However, here this smooth chilled drink comes with an added twist: it’s imbued with dulce de leche. When I discovered that this existed, I just had to try it. The sweet and creamy flavors of coffee, chocolate, cream, and the distinctive yet subtle taste of caramel really got my taste buds tingling. Apart from a large glass of Malbec, this alcoholic brew is definitely one my favorites.
Even though it’s rather pricey, it’s definitely the ideal beverage to raise a toast in the name of dulce de leche.
Alfajores are another one of Argentina’s most cherished treats, with locals consuming around 900 million each year. It goes without saying that they just had to be included in the celebration of dulce de leche.
I’ve tried many of the different varieties, from el Capitán de Espacio to those maicena ones, but for the benefit of this article, I’ve chosen the premium classic: Cachafaz.
These dulce de leche-filled, chocolate-covered cookies are definitely one of my preferred alfajores and I now seem to be eating them on the reg (oops).
What I found so interesting about alfajores is that a lot of them have mysterious stories on how they came into existence and Cachafaz is no exception.
One of the most widespread legends is that the Cachafaz was formerly named in tribute of the tango dancer Benito Bianquet, who died in 1942 in the city of Mar del Plata, the homeland of the Havanna alfajor empire.
Additionally, there have also been many false stories, including the story of an unfaithful Havanna employee who decided to start his own company to start the ongoing battle between the more elite alfajores. Either way, none of that matters when it comes to indulging myself in some chocolatey treats.
These are considered to be a more prestigious brand, making them a little more expensive than other kiosko classics, but this day only comes once a year (officially, at least), so why not splash out?
Churros filled with Dulce de Leche
I spent the majority of my youth in Spain, the homeland of the classic churro, and this was the first time I ever encountered the traditional Spanish delicacy. I must shamefully admit that these treats became my drunk food after stumbling up the main street on my way home from the village ferias.
These fried-dough pastries are traditionally sprinkled with sugar and served with warm chocolate sauce for dipping, but that wasn’t always the case. The history of the churro is actually quite surprising: it begins not in Spain but in China. Portuguese merchants first tasted youtiao (oil-fried devil) and they were not sweet, but salty.
The evolution of the classic churro is both complex and extensive, but they quickly gained popularity in Mexico and South America. And of course, this has led to Argentina doing what they do best and that is combining dulce de leche with just about anything, so now I can enjoy my two favorite things simultaneously.
I even discovered that I don’t have to leave the house to get my hands on these fried DDL-filled delights because CHUCK Churros delivers. Crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside, these are the perfect goodies to munch into to celebrate World Dulce de Leche Day.
Dulce de Leche Ámber
When I first heard about this concoction I thought it summed up Argentina’s obsession with dulce de leche perfectly.
The craft beer revolution happened rather rapidly over the past couple of years in Buenos Aires. Living in the Palermo neighborhood, it’s impossible to go two blocks without passing one of these craft beer bars, and it’s hardly surprising that some are starting to experiment by adding a definitively Argentine flourish. But have they taken this infatuation too far?
A cervecería in San Telmo doesn’t think so. The on-site brewery at the Sexton Beer Company has incorporated dulce de leche into their very own amber ale. The final result is where traditional meets contemporary, creating the ideal blend.
I’m yet to try this hoppy Argentine fusion, but I’m sure I’ll be heading there after work today to commence my very own dulce de leche fiesta.
I think it’s safe to say you can have DDL in almost every meal, from churros for breakfast and alfajores for lunch to a refreshing infused amber ale to wash down your dinner in the evening.
But why stop there? Go all out and combine this delicious Argentine caramel with something more savory. Whisk some DDL into vegetable or chicken stock and lather it on some meat before throwing it on the parrilla and then – and only then – can say you celebrated this day properly.
The Argentines may not have taken their obsession with DDL too far, but have I? Probably.