If you don’t know what cajeta is my favorite explanation & recipe for it is here. I made it planning to use it in another recipe. Here’s what I got out of the process:
- You should absolutely make this. It’s one of those incredibly rewarding out comes for very easy (if time-consuming) work. I recommend cooking something simple nearby while you make cajeta. I was pitting cherries to candy and making a rum syrup for them. Having something related to do makes the time fly.
- You should use the baking soda. I skipped this step because I was using the cajeta in a another recipe and it was going to be cooked again. I wasn’t sure if the baking soda would mess up the other recipe. I read on a bulletin board that the baking soda speeds up the browning, so it isn’t strictly necessary (and is not used when people make it out of condensed milk) but your cajeta will be prettier with it.
- You should use goat milk. Okay I thought the goat milk angle was weird too, but I made it out of cow’s milk and I…okay, ‘regret it’ is an overstatement, but a significant note in its flavor is lost without the goat milk tang.
- Don’t use cream. I am a longtime practitioner of the ‘interchangeability of dairy products.’ In baking this changes the crumb, and when cream is substituted I often find this to be a good thing. I thought about how cajeta might work — long simmering boils off most of the water and some of the dissolved proteins leaving behind milk fat and lactose, a mild and not very sweet sugar, which caramelizes. I thought: Cream = more fat = richer caramel. Didn’t add up that way. The caramel of the lactose is so mild that the extra fat overwhelms it, making for bland cajeta. My first batch was also mad thick.
- Be bold with your seasonings. The fat can dull them. For 1 qt of milk I used 1/2 a vanilla bean, sliced open and a 1/2 inch stick of cinnamon. I didn’t want cinnamon-y cajeta but it easily could have withstood a 1 inch piece. Something to add some heat or ‘pinch’ might be nice too. Pepper or nutmeg or clove.
I tried to make cajeta caramels. Subbing cajeta in for the cream. This failed. For what its worth though cajeta has a wonderful aroma. Whether you love or hate the final product. Whether or not you burn your experimental batch of caramels to cinders. The rich unique smell stays with you. Just the title of this post called the smell to mind and put me in a pleasant mood thinking of the soothing stirring and delicious smell. Happy Tuesday!