by Holly on November 4, 2012

in dessert,gluten-free,recipes,travel

In my next life, I’d like to come back as an Argentinean.

After spending more than two weeks traveling around the country with the manfriend, I am convinced that everyone in Argentina eats only four things: steak, croissants (or medialunas), dulce de leche and wine. Ummm…is that not a diet we can all vote in favor of?* Especially seeing as miraculously, obesity doesn’t seem to be too big of an issue.

Everywhere we went, the steak was so flavorful, so tender. The croissants so buttery, so flaky. The dulce de leche so creamy, so rich. And the wine! So complex, so…so…so drinkable. A bottle a night, to be precise (split between two people, I assure you).

One of our favorite places of the whole trip was Cafayate.

Located in the Calchaqui Valley, Cafayate is Argentina’s wine country of the northwest – smaller, less touristy and snuggled right at the base of the red-tinted peaks of the Andes. This quaint little town makes it easy (too easy?) to drink a bottle of wine a night. It costs around $8 – less if you buy it at the convenience store and free if you hit up all the free wine tastings around town.

Torrontes is the king wine around here. A fresh, fruity white wine that’s a perfect accompaniment to empanadas. I should also mention to you that I ate a lot of empanadas on vacation.

And I mean, A LOT.

Each day in Cafayate started nearly identical to every other day.

Wake-up. Yawn. Kiss manfriend good morning. Do a happy dance upon the realization I’m in Argentina. Drink water (to hydrate from the wine consumed the night beforehand). Make myself halfway presentable. Head downstairs to the hotel breakfast. Order a cafe con leche (coffee with milk) and three croissants. Scoop dulce de leche onto said croissants. Devour. Repeat.

It’s tasted exceedingly good after a day spent biking between vineyards in Cafayate.

Dulce de leche is a milk caramel that’s made by reducing whole milk and sugar down until it’s thick and gooey and delicious to eat on anything. Toast, ice cream, cookies, bananas, sweet potatoes…you name it, I’ve done it. It’s an Argentine specialty, and it is sooooo sooooo good.

Sooooo good in fact, that I ate the entire jar I brought back from Argentina and was forced to make my own. In the early Christmas spirit, I’ve add rich chai spices – cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cardamom and black pepper. Yes, I love the holidays, and yes, I spent the weekend watching cheesy Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. Don’t judge me.

This dulce de leche is slightly spicy, perfectly sweet and on the menu for breakfast tomorrow.

Cafe con leche included.

Chai-Spiced Dulce de Leche
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 2 – 3 hours

4 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 t vanilla extract (or the seeds of 1 vanilla bean)
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
3/4 t cardamom
1/2 t allspice
1/4 t black pepper
1 t baking soda

In a large saucepan over medium heat, whisk milk, sugar, vanilla and spices together. Bring to a simmer (all the sugar should be dissolved). Add baking soda and reduce heat to low. Let simmer, stirring occasionally but not incorporating the foam on the surface with the liquid.

Cook for two to three hours until mixture is reduced and similar in thickness to regular yogurt.

Makes 1 to 1 1/2 cups

(*PSA: Do your research, and don’t forget to VOTE on Tuesday!)


Kristie November 4, 2012 at 9:21 pm

OMG Holly you have me wanting to go back so bad! Cafe con leche + medialunas was by far my favorite breakfast and/or snack. SO good. The empanadas… wine… admittedly, I was never a dulce de leche fan, but no one held it against me ;). Did you get a chance to have any milanesa? Cheap, but always good!

Sarah B. November 4, 2012 at 9:44 pm

Beautiful writing and beautiful photos! Everything(tarian) about that trip sounds absolutely divine. Oh, and that diet? Yes, something we can ALL agree on.

Thank you for sharing your travels! I’d rather be there myself, but I’ll certainly take the second-hand account so I can live vicariously, thank you very much!

Lea @ Greens and Coffee Beans November 4, 2012 at 9:46 pm

This looks SO GOOD. But I’m torn between whether or not I want to try to make it, on one hand it sounds like heaven in spreadable form, on the other hand I’m pretty sure I will consume all 1.5 cups in one sitting and wind up in a milk and sugar induced coma. Worth it? I think so.

Karey @ Nutty About Health November 4, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Hollly, that looks tasty! I love your photos & how you enjoyed your trip to Argentina. Sounds like a beautiful (& tasty) place! Another great post.

And yes, I did do my research & participated in early voting. ;-)

Sarah November 4, 2012 at 10:26 pm

In my dream world, we would go have coffee and you would tell me every last detail of you trip. Every one. And you’d bring this dulce de leche and I’d bring two spoons. Love you!

Sarah November 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm

By *you* trip. I mean your trip. Wow.

agustina November 5, 2012 at 12:56 am

so beautiful the way you talk about my country!! And yes, dulce de leche rocks!

Kathryn November 5, 2012 at 3:50 am

Oh man, this is a killer dulce de leche recipe. Pretty much not going to be able to think about anything else. Stunning vacation pictures too.

Lauren November 5, 2012 at 7:04 am

I am loving what Argentina did for you. Please keep sharing these kind of recipes. :)

Mari November 5, 2012 at 7:17 am

It looks like the trip was wonderful! Love the photos.

Jamie @ StudioEats November 5, 2012 at 8:21 am

This looks freakin AMAZING! YUM.

Christa @ Edible Balance November 5, 2012 at 9:32 am

mmmmmm… I’m thinking I need to make a vegan version of the dulce de leche! I’m pretty sure I’d be drizzling the stuff over everything too! I love vacations sometimes just for the amount of wine consumed and thoroughly enjoyed ;)

Emily November 5, 2012 at 10:15 am

I love every second of this Argentinian love fest. They eat dulce de leche in Panama too, but most frequently as different forms of candy …my fave is Manjar Blanco, which you buy on the side of the road in little plastic cups, and use the lip of the cup to spoon it into your mouth. You better believe that you just gave me an excuse to spread it on my hojaldras (Panamanian fried bread) to officially crown the most healthy breakfast in Latin America :).

elizabeth November 5, 2012 at 10:53 am

La Dolce Vita, Dulce de Leche… same thing, right? Whoops, different countries! I could live la dolce vita if I ate dulce de leche every day! Your trip sounds amazing and seems like it was just what the doctor ordered for your life. :)

Keep the pictures and stories coming!

Emily November 5, 2012 at 11:06 am

I LOVED the dulce de leche in Argentina. Hello dulce de leche ice cream!! And touring wine country!! I just LOVE Argentina!!!

Addy @ Six-Kick Switch November 5, 2012 at 11:22 am

I love going on vacation because it feels like whatever you eat is magically calorie-free. So while I would probably be totally guilt-ridden over subsisting off croissants and steak at home, when on vacation this would seem like a perfectly plausible existence :) Thanks for the awesome pics and great recipe!

Megan (Braise the Roof) November 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Wow, it really sounds like you had an amazing trip! And yeah, that sounds like a pretty phenomenal way to start the day. :)

Uncle Tommie Timbertoes November 5, 2012 at 1:50 pm

You didn’t try the matte? It’s an Argentinian beverage more highly regarded than wine or beer.

Jessica November 5, 2012 at 3:00 pm

OMG what. a. trip. Of course, I still want more details… but this will suffice, for now! ;)

Love that you and the man friend took advantage of that delicioso vino every night and enjoyed long, leisurely breakfasts each morning – that’s the only way to do it on vacation! This is why I adore traveling so so much. Sighhhh. By the way, I love your curls and style. Such a beauty!

Hillary November 5, 2012 at 4:10 pm

You had me at croissant. And coffee. And caramel.

Alysha @Shesontherun November 5, 2012 at 4:36 pm

The photos are gorgeous. And that Dulce de leche would make a great x-mas gift I’m sure.

Sam @ Better With Sprinkles November 5, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Looks like you had a fantastic trip! I’d definitely be down for visiting a place where caramel seems to be a food group. :-p

coco November 6, 2012 at 4:47 am

I’m from Argentina, glad to know thatnp you liked the food and the place. Calafate is the most beautiful place in Argentina for me too. :)

Diego November 6, 2012 at 7:28 am

Hola Holly! Nice to see your words and photos about my country… Your uncle Tom Strong (my coleague and my mucho bueno amigo, (-; as he says…) sent me your link. And as he mentioned you only missed to mention the “mate”. A tipical Argentinean infusion, in fact also very popular in Uruguay (our neighbours). Congrats!!

janetha November 7, 2012 at 1:59 pm

whoa my goodness, that looks so damn good. glad you had fun!! i love you!

Allison (Spontaneous Tomato) November 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm

This sounds awesome! (And so does your trip!) I remember eating the best dulce de leche-flavored everything when I visited Chile/Argentina… (I also brought back about 4 POUNDS of dulce de leche from Chile to Japan, where I was living at the time, and got some very weird looks from the customs officials who chose me for a random bag search in the Santiago airport.)

I’ve still never made my own dulce de leche, but you make it seem totally worth it, and the chai spice addition? Genius!

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