Cheesecake with Dulce de Leche Cortada

Added on by Caroline Zhang.

This summer I've been working at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and it's been quite educational: I've learned a lot about small business in America, immigration reform, energy policy, and how to use Microsoft Outlook (I still haven't figured out why so many people still use this rather outdated system). I have a better understanding of why I believe in the social justice causes I'm involved with at school (i.e. why I don't agree with said energy policy), went to the July 4th naturalization ceremony at the White House, and watched more soccer in the past three weeks than the rest of my life combined.

I also learned about dulce de leche cortada. One of my fellow interns, Cynthia Florentino, used to live in the Dominican Republic; she said she used to make this when the milk would go bad because the power would go out. I was a little skeptical at first (she described it as being "kind of like couscous") but further Google-ing revealed that it was a thicker, custard-y version of normal dulce de leche. The milk is separated into curds and whey while it is being cooked with sugar (either by letting it go bad or adding an acid to it), yielding a more textured dulce de leche with an extra tang.

Dulce de Leche Cortada | Pass the Cocoa

There's a lot of confusion about dulce de leche without adding this new strain, and in particular, its relation to caramel. So after some more Google-ing, I've put together the following illustration:

Caramel vs Dulce de Leche

There actually is a difference between caramel and dulce de leche, at least on a chemical level.

Caramelizationrefers exclusively to the browning of the sugar. When making caramel, the sugar is browned and then the dairy is added. When making dulce de leche, the sugar and milk are cooked together. This means that the sugar caramelizes, but there's also an additional browning reaction with the milk. The proteins and sugar in the milk go through Maillard reactions, which is the same reaction that turns your steak brown and gives it that flavor. This gives dulce de leche a depth of flavor from cooking the milk, hence the common complaint from dulce de leche fans that caramel is just burnt sugar. (Speaking of dulce de leche fans...)

I paired the dulce de leche cortada with cheesecake; its slight tang pairs well with the tartness of the cheesecake, and its texture complements the smooth creaminess. The goat cheese gives the cheesecake an extra bit of flavor.

While the recipe involves standing over the stove for an hour to make the dulce de leche, this cheesecake is definitely worth it. Crank up the air conditioning and give it a try!


Cheesecake with Dulce de Leche Cortada | Pass the Cocoa

Cheesecake with Dulce de Leche Cortada

Click here for the printable recipe | Yields: 1 9-inch cheesecake

For the Dulce de Leche Cortada
6 cups whole milk 
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
⅓ cup lime juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt

For the Cheesecake Crust
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup butter, melted
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Cheesecake
24 ounces ounces (3 packs) cream cheese, softened
4 ounces goat cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Dulce de Leche Cortada
In a large pot, mix together the milk, sugar, lime juice, and cinnamon.

Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring every few minutes. The milk will quickly curdle; this is normal. After an hour of cooking, stir in the salt.

Cook the milk for about 60 to 90 minutes, or until most of the water has evaporated and the milk curds have turned a light brown color. It should be thick but pourable.

For the Cheesecake
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Make the crust. Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, butter, cinnamon, salt and vanilla extract. Press the mixture into a greased 9-inch round springform pan.

Whisk together the cream cheese and goat cheese until smooth. Whisk in the sugar.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Whisk in the vanilla extract.

Pour about ⅓ of the cheesecake batter on top the crust. Dot the top of the batter with spoonfuls of the dulce de leche cortada (using about ¼ cup). Use a toothpick to swirl the dulce de leche. Repeat two more times with remaining batter and dulce de leche.

Bake the cheesecake for 50 - 60 minutes, or until the center of the cheesecake is barely set, but still slightly jiggly. Turn off the oven, crack open the door, and let the cheesecake sit in the oven for another 15 minutes. Let cool completely, then refrigerate overnight.

If the dulce de leche cortada is too hard or thick to swirl into the cheesecake, let it cool completely, then add ½ cup milk and reheat, stirring until it is smooth.