• Dulce de leche translates to ‘sweetness of milk’ or ‘milk jam’ or 'get in my belly'. (Messina)Source: Messina
Our favourite gelato providore has found a way to bring back dulce de leche, made in the true Argentinian style.  
Lucy Rennick

18 May 2018 - 1:16 PM  UPDATED 18 May 2018 - 1:19 PM

One of the most intriguing things about dulce de leche, the Argentine milk caramel confectionary – aside from its mesmerisingly gooey consistency and goes-well-on-anything taste – is that it’s commercial import is prohibited in Australia. 

What did one of Argentina’s most famous exports ever do to us, we hear you ask? Being traditionally made with cow’s milk in Argentina, a country suffering a spate of foot and mouth disease outbreaks, the federal government banned the import of all things dairy as a precaution (although you are permitted  to import less than 1 kilogram of the sweet for personal consumption).

Dulce de leche is a versatile sweet confectionary that can be used in a variety of baked goods, ice-creams or solo.

Sad news for those with a bit of a sweet tooth – that is, until Messina got on the case. 

“The ban hasn’t been reversed, which is why we took it upon ourselves to go to Argentina and learn how to make dulce de leche properly,” Messina founder, Nick Palumbo, tells SBS.

They even hired a true Argentinian dulce maker to fly to Australia with them to ensure a perfect recipe. 

No stranger to going the extra mile (the celebrated ice-cream house is famous for flavours like Elvis The Fat Years, with peanut-butter gelato, fried brioche and banana jam), Messina has taken it upon themselves to start making their own dulce de leche. 

The team purchased the right equipment to take back to Australia with them, and even hired a true Argentinian dulce maker to fly to Australia with them to ensure a perfect recipe. 

Translating literally to ‘sweetness of milk’, or ‘milk jam’, it is surprisingly simple to make, but it has to be done right – no imitations or cheap knock-offs allowed.

“It’s popularity and variety of uses has resulted in adulterated and poorly replicated versions found all over the world,” Palumbo says.

Don’t even think about taking Palumbo your caramel, or your boiled can of condensed milk, and trying to pass either of them off as dulce de leche

"A true dulce de leche is simple – it’s made with good-quality milk, a little sugar, then slowly simmered until all moisture content is extracted from the milk,” Palumbo says.

Don’t even think about taking Palumbo your caramel, or your boiled can of condensed milk, and trying to pass either of them off.

The browning is caused by the ‘maillard’ reaction, which is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars, rather than sugars actually caramelising, he explains, and the sweetness comes from the milk being reduced to the point where the lactose ends up forming a greater ‘concentrated’ percentage of the finished product.

Simple as it may be to make, the life and times of this spread are anything but. Latin American countries like Argentina and Uruguay have long been feuding over its origin - some date its discovery back to the early 19th century, and then there is Mexico's version, called cajeta, which is traditionally made with goat's milk or a mix of goat's and cow's milk.

Meet the insanely good Mexican caramel you really need to eat
Cajeta is a caramel-like concoction, like dulce de leche, yet more milky and silky, and with a deep, rustic and almost nutty flavour.

Over in Europe, the story changes again: it is said that in 1804, Napoleon’s trusted chef accidentally created dulce de leche by leaving milk and sugar on heat for too long. 

One thing everyone can agree on, however: world Dulce De Leche Day takes place on October 11, and few will be celebrating harder than Messina. 

“We’re now confident we’ve landed on an amazing flavour,” Palumbo says. “We’ve reintroduced it, and we’re using the dulce de leche for lots of other things too - the ‘caramel’ in our yoghurt caramel, and in all our baked goods.”

Gelato images from Instagram (@gelatomessina).

Visit Messina at one of their many locations to taste their dulce de leche. 


Add dulce de leche to your life
Dulce de leche cheesecake

My son Juju rates this an 11 out of 10. 

Dulce de leche brownies

Brownie lovers, take note: with every portion holding its very own generous dollop of dulce de leche, this is the brownie you have been searching for all your life! For a particularly wicked dessert, serve it drizzled with warmed extra dulce de leche and topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Sandwiched peanut oat cookies with dulce de leche

Bite-sized, nutty and incredibly more-ish these cookies bring together a heavenly flavour combination – caramel, peanuts and oats.

Dulce de leche ice-cream

Dulce de leche has experienced an increased popularity outside Argentina these last few years, and it's easy to see why. The process of slowly cooking milk results in a unique caramel colour and a rich, nutty taste. We guarantee this heavenly ice-cream won't last long in your freezer!