A good portion of his childhood was happily spent in his family's Oklahoma restaurant. Then in college, Rick Bayless took up Spanish and Latin American studies — followed by six years living in Mexico with wife Deann, falling in love with the country's culture and cuisine. His recipe for cajeta, an irresistibly caramelly milk confection, takes time but little effort. "It's so much richer and more complex than caramel sauce," says Rick. Get in on the sweet tradition.
2 quarts milk
2 cups sugar
1 3-inch piece cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
Pour milk into a slow cooker. Whisk in sugar. Add cinnamon stick and dissolved baking soda and stir well. Turn slow cooker on HIGH and cook, uncovered, for about 24 hours. After 18 hours or so, the cajeta will have darkened to light golden brown. That's when to begin keeping an eye on it. Stir from time to time to make sure it's cooking evenly. When it is noticeably thick and richly golden, test a couple of drops on a cold plate. The cooled cajeta should be the consistency of caramel sauce. If yours is still a little runny, let it cook longer. When cajeta is ready, strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl or wide-mouth storage jar. Covered, it will keep for a month or more in the refrigerator. Makes about 3 cups.
Just Desserts: Upgrade pound cake or ice cream with a generous drizzle of homemade cajeta.
Spice up your summer with Rick's phenomenal Guacamole with Strawberries and Habanero.
Originally published in the July 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.