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« Tuesday Quick Links Half Acre is All Good »

Recipe Tue Aug 21 2007

What Is Caramel Made Of? And Condensed Milk?

Sables FlorentinSables Florentin--squares of buttery sable with a rich almond-caramel topping--is one of my favorite sweets since childhood when my mom used to bake them for the special three-o'clock snack time. As a grown-up, though, I can't expect the indulgent dessert to magically pop out of my oven like they used to fifteen years ago. I've made them a few times, but it always seemed like a lot of work, even though the result has usually been more than satisfying. The most annoying part has been the making of caramel. If you don't know, let me just say that when you make caramel you're pouring cold fresh cream into a pot of lava-like, burning-hot (actually burning, come to think of it) sugar. Does it spatter? Oh, yeah.

But there's an alternative to that, as I've found out recently.

The entirely new recipe for making caramel calls for a simple can of condensed milk--and a large pot of boiling water. You place a can of condensed milk in boiling water and let it boil for two to three hours. Open the can, and voila, you have your caramel inside.

Incredulous, I went out to buy a can of condensed milk and tried it myself.

Miracle CaramelWhen I opened the can after two hours and a half of gentle boiling, the condensed milk inside had turned caramely brown. It faintly smelled like caramel, too. Although the characteristic burnt taste of the caramel could have been stronger, it was definitely caramel, which shouldn't have been a surprise, after all, for condensed milk had all the ingredients for making the caramel: the cream and the sugar.

I used the resultant caramel on toasts (it made quite a wonderful breakfast, topped with slices of banana) a few times, but a whole can of caramel took more concentrated effort to consume, which is where the sables florentin came in. With the most cumbersome (and dangerous) part of the process already behind, it was a mere thirty-minutes mixing and baking to get my favorite cookie on the cooling rack.

If you're looking for a real caramel, this condensed milk method is probably not for you. On the other hand, if you like the idea of creating a whole can of caramel for under $2, or if you find molecular gastronomy fascinating, or you just like sable florentin, you might want to try boiling that can of condensed milk for a few hours and see what happens.

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Andrew D. Anderson / August 27, 2007 7:30 PM

I was wondering if you would (or have) posted the recipe for the cookies you made with this condensed-milk caramel creation.

They look scrumptious!


Jade Bryant / June 8, 2011 4:11 AM

So you never opened the can at all? im suprised that it never exploded?! :/ great method though i dont think i could wait that long for it to cook.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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