Summer Eats: Dulce de Leche Buttermilk Ice Cream

Dulce de Leche Buttermilk Ice Cream

Photo Credit: Michelle Furbacher

You know how there are people who talk about reading cookbooks in bed, just for the pleasure of the reading? Susan Musgrave's A Taste of Haida Gwaii is precisely the kind of cookbook they're talking about. For example, the chief appeal of the following recipe for Dulce de Leche Buttermilk Ice Cream is not actually the inevitable delicious, but lines like, "When things end up burnt in my kitchen there isn’t usually a happy ending. My burnt messes never end up starring in a Winning Desserts of the World cookbook. They go over the cliff onto the riverbank where the ravens and eagles do daily fly-by’s hoping for a fiasco in my kitchen."


But yes, enjoy the ice cream too. Technically (by which we mean seasonally, and not by the school calendar) there still remain weeks and weeks of summer. 


I have combined Smitten Kitchen’s Buttermilk Ice Cream and Dulce de Leche Ice Cream recipes to come up with a recipe that is the best of both worlds.

Serves 4


1 cup (250 mL) heavy cream

3/4 cup (190 mL) dulce de leche (purchased, or homemade, see Aside)

6 large egg yolks

1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk

1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla or one whole vanilla bean, scraped and simmered with the cream

Pinch of salt

Sprinkling of edible gold flake

What You Do

1) In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the heavy cream and dulce de leche and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

2) In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks.

3) Remove the cream mixture from the heat and drizzle a small amount into the yolks, slowly, and whisking constantly to keep the eggs from curdling. Do this a few more times to warm up the yolks before pouring the yolk mixture back into the cream, whisking non-stop.

4) Cook over low heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

5) Strain the mixture and whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla and salt. Cool completely and freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.

6) Serve topped with a sprinkling of edible gold flake.

Aside: Dulce de Leche

When Argentines move to another country, one of the things they miss, aside from their family, is dulce de leche (pronounced "DOOL-seh deh LEH-cheh," meaning candy of milk or milk jelly in Spanish)—a creamy sweet, caramelized milk-and-sugar concoction found in almost every Argentinean pantry. There are many different ways of making it—in a saucepan, in a double boiler, in the microwave, in the oven, in a pressure cooker—the simplest being to heat a tin of sweetened condensed milk in a saucepan of water on top of your stove. The Russians call it "Boiled Condensed Milk" but that’s not nearly so poetic as dulce de leche.

Dulce de leche is said to have originated in 1829 in the providence of Cañuelas in Buenos Aires (though the French have their own version of its origin dating back to Napoleon’s day.) It’s a long story involving a war, a couple of generals, a treaty and a maid who forgot the milk boiling on the stove. When things end up burnt in my kitchen there isn’t usually a happy ending. My burnt messes never end up starring in a Winning Desserts of the World cookbook. They go over the cliff onto the riverbank where the ravens and eagles do daily fly-by’s hoping for a fiasco in my kitchen.


One 14 oz (414 mL) can of sweetened condensed milk

What You Do

1) Remove the label from the can of condensed milk. If you leave it on, you'll get a papery mess in the water. Yuck.

2) Pierce two holes, on opposite sides of the can, with a can opener. Do not skip this step. Without these holes, the can may bulge and there is the danger of it exploding.

3) Place the can in a small saucepan and fill it with enough water to come up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the top of the can. You will need to add more water during the cooking process to make sure water doesn't go below this level as it evaporates. Don't let the water come higher than 1/2 inch (1 cm) from the top of can, though, as you don't want any getting on the top of the can and seeping into the holes you pierced. Another mess in the water. Yuck again.

4) To prevent the can from rattling in the water (which I would find extremely annoying considering it is likely to be rattling for at least 3 hours) put a cloth (a face cloth will do) under the can.

5) Place the pot on your stove and turn it on to medium-high heat. Watch the water closely until you see it come to a simmer.

6) Lower the heat to hold the water at a simmer. Some of the condensed milk might escape through the holes. If this happens, scoop it off with a spoon. Try not to let any spill over into the water. (Remember how I warned about a mess?)

7) Wait. And wait some more. How long you wait depends on the type of dulce de leche you want. A soft dulce de leche takes about 3 hours. A firm dulce de leche will take up to 4 hours.

8) Remove the can with tongs and place on a rack to cool.

9) Open the can carefully with a can opener and pour into a bowl. The top will be more fluid, and there will be thicker, darker chunks at the bottom that will need to be scraped out. When everything is in the bowl, whisk together to make it homogeneous and smooth.

Yield: One can = 1 1/4 cups (310 mL) dulce de leche. I processed 4 cans at one and got 5 cups (1.25 L) and—what else?—froze what I didn’t use, for future use.

Book Cover A Taste of Haida Gwaii

About A Taste of Haida Gwaii:

In addition to winning lifetime achievement awards as a writer and poet, since 2010 Susan Musgrave has been the proprietor of Copper Beech House, a beautiful bed and breakfast that has for decades played host to authors and prime ministers, artists and adventurers who visit the remote archipelago of Haida Gwaii. 

In her first cookbook, the famous poet uses her humour and incisive wit to bring cooking and living on the former Queen Charlotte Islands to life with stories gathered over decades. With its evocative tales and wild cuisine, this book offers a unique take on food that could only be developed living off the coast of British Columbia. 
More than collecting recipes, Musgrave follows the seasons with guides to gathering the freshest local ingredients for recipes that reflect Canada's wild West Coast. This book is a recommended read for fans of food, good humour and the Pacific Northwest. 

Why not include A Taste of Haida Gwaii in your next meal with one of these recipes? 

  • Hands-Free Cloudberry Jam 
  • Spruce Tip Mayonnaise 
  • Mussels Trudeau 
  • Rose Spit Halibut with Wild Rose Petals 
  • (Almost) Flourless Chocolate Torte with Thimbleberry Elderflower Liqueur Coulis

A Taste of Haida Gwaii, by Susan Musgrave. Published by Whitecap Books, 2015. Appears here with permission of the publisher.

August 24, 2015
Books mentioned in this post
A Taste of Haida Gwaii

A Taste of Haida Gwaii

Food Gathering and Feasting at the Edge of the World
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