Half gallon whole milk
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
½ teaspoon baking soda
In a large pan, bring the milk to a boil. Once it has boiled, use a fine mesh strainer to sieve the milk into a very large pan. The dulce de leche mixture will boil and climb like crazy, so choose a really large pan.
In the large pan, add the sugar and vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped, into the pan. Add the baking soda and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture back to a boil – there will be a lot of foaming so stay close by to stir. As soon as the mixture starts to boil it will start to thicken.
Stir the mixture occasionally with the wooden spoon so that the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. I think that heat temperature, as well as altitude can play a real factor in how long it takes to get the mixture to the darkness and consistency you want. I have read several recipes that say to cook it for about 1 hours to 1 ½ hours. It took me closer to three hours, but I didn’t give up and the mixture finally did darken and thicken the way I wanted, so just don’t give up!
When the mixture reaches close to the darkness you want, take the pan off the heat and place it in a sink filled with cold water to cool it down. Store the dulce de leche in clean jars in the refrigerator.
Yields 3-4 cups