cajeta dessert

I’ll let you in on a little secret that maybe isn’t so secret: Cajeta is the food of angels. It’s essentially a milk caramel sauce, but what sets it apart from dulce de leche or confiture de lait is that it’s usually made from goat’s milk, which makes it more delicious by half, IMHO; it has a little tang and complexity the others don’t. Cajeta’s incredible on ice cream, with cookies or toast, over a simple cake, on a spoon, as a beverage (not that I’ve tried that…yet), or in a million other ways, I’m sure.

still life - pears

But because we have an abundance of pears in the market these days, I teamed the cajeta with crêpes and topped them with, you guessed it, roasted pears. AGAIN.

crepes, roasted pears and cajeta

I looked at a lot of cajeta recipes before starting, and most of them emphasized that you Must Stir Frequently, especially after adding the baking soda, or else! I liked Rick Bayless’s recipe because of his relaxed attitude to the whole thing and, you know, he’s Rick Bayless. So don’t worry too much when you’re making it; I just wandered into the kitchen every now and then (more frequently toward the end) to give it a stir.

Usually, cajeta would be a bit thicker than you see in the picture above, but I was in a hurry to wrap things up and skimped on the cooking time a little. It was still mind-blowingly good. And it would make a great homemade gift for the holidays, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m pretty sure the recipient would be.

recipes after the jump

Cajeta from Rick Bayless’s Frontera Recipes

2 quarts goat’s milk or a combination of goat’s milk and cow’s milk—or even with all cow’s milk (use whole milk in all cases)
2 cups sugar
A  2-inch piece of cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican canela
1/2 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

Simmer the cajeta. In a medium-large (6-quart) pot (preferably a Dutch oven or Mexican copper cazo), combine the milk, sugar and cinnamon stick and set over medium heat.  Stir regularly until the milk comes to a simmer (all the sugar should have dissolved by this point). Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the dissolved baking soda—it’ll foam up if the goat’s milk is acidic. When the bubbles subside, return the pot to the heat.

Adjust the heat to maintain the mixture at a brisk simmer (too high and the mixture will boil over; too low and the cooking time will seem interminable). Cook, stirring regularly, until the mixture turns pale golden, more or less one hour.

Now, begin stirring frequently as the mixture colors to caramel-brown and thickens to the consistency of maple syrup (you’ll notice the bubbles becoming larger and glassier).  Stir regularly so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Test a couple of drops on a cold plate: When cool, the cajeta should be the consistency of a medium-thick caramel sauce.  If the cooled cajeta is thicker (almost like caramel candy), stir in a tablespoon or so of water and remove from the heat; if too runny, keep cooking.

Finish the cajeta. Pour the cajeta through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl or a wide-mouth storage jar.  When cool, cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.  Warming the cajeta before serving (a microwave oven is efficient here) makes it extra delicious.

Working Ahead: Cajeta keeps for a month or more in the refrigerator.  Keep it tightly covered to keep it from absorbing other flavors.

Crêpes from Dara & Co.

As always, I used Jules Gluten-Free AP Flour in place of regular in this recipe. I also added a pinch of salt because I find this GF flour needs it.

2 large eggs
3/4 c. milk
1/2 c. water
1 c. flour
6 Tbsp. melted butter, divided

Place eggs, milk, water, flour, and 3 Tbsp. butter in a blender and blend until smooth. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Brush the pan with a little bit of the remaining melted butter, then swirl in about 3 Tbsp. of the batter to form a thin pancake the size of the pan. Cook until lightly browned, gently flip, and cook for just a few seconds on the second side. Serve warm.

Makes around 15 crepes

Roasted Pears adapted from Smitten Kitchen

4 pears, any type
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel pears if you like (I didn’t), halve them lengthwise and core. Place cut side up in a roasting pan and sprinkle with lemon juice. Sprinkle sugar evenly over pear halves and dot with butter. Pour water into the roasting pan and bake pears for 30 minutes, basting with pan juices a few times. Flip pears over and bake an additional 30 minutes, basting with pan juices a few times. Pears are ready when a knife slips easily into the thickest part. Allow pears to cool to room temperature before serving.

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