Dulce de Leche, Facturas and Tortas

Argentinians are clearly fanatical about two things: meat and Dulce de Leche ("milk jam").

You can't come to Argentina without hearing the word "asado" (roast), which is a technique of cooking meats - predominantly beef - on a parrilla (grill). My mouth is watering simply thinking about it.

Dulce de leche is made by slowly simmering milk with A LOT of sugar, while stirring it constantly. The water in the milk evaporates and the mixtures thickens, resulting in a caramel syrup which is used in almost every pastry, dessert and cake in Argentina. It is said to have been discovered by accident, when a woman forgot about the sweetened milk she was heating on the stove.

Dulce de leche is so sweet that for the few first few months of eating it I would get temporal headaches - and an an involuntary twitch in the right side of my face whenever I smelt it. I didn't mention this to anyone as I think it's a national crime to speak badly about Dulce de leche, hence you risk being expatriated. Though after four months in Argentina I have started to develop a liking for it.

[Below] Argentineans reading this need not panic - the price hasn't escalated six-fold. This photo was taken in Uruguay, where dulce de leche is also very popular - as it is in Chile, Colombia and Brazil (where it is called "Doce de Leite")

[Below] Facturas. A factura is a pastry. There are many different varieties of facturas but they generally have lethal levels of Dulce de Leche as their common denominator. They are cheap and delicious, and Argentineans eat them - many of them - for breakfast.

Yesterday I only ate sugar. Facturas for breakfast. Cake-mixture for lunch. Facturas for dinner. Am I becoming Argentinean?

[Below] Unfortunately though, my cake didn't turn out as well as my last one. I followed all the instructions but the oven I used doesn't have temperature markings on the dial, hence I had to guess the temperature. The instructions clearly stated: Do NOT open the oven for 60 minutes. So I didn't. And although I did smell something burning after 10 minutes, I assumed that was merely spilled cake-mix burning on the oven floor.

[Below] I cut away all the burnt parts - i.e. the top, bottom and sides. Besides the burnt chocolate-chips, it still looks edible. What do you think?

Click here to see my last, successful attempt at baking. Note that I look slightly happier.
Click here to read more about the history of Dulce de Leche.

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