Dulce de Leche Caramel Tartlets (Pastelitos de Dulce de Leche)

Dulce de Leche
Dulce de Leche is the key ingredient in these tartlets. Laurange/Getty Images
    2 hrs 30 mins
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These decadent little tarts have a graham cracker shell and are filled with caramel dulce de leche and topped with meringue. They are spectacular when filled with homemade dulce de leche, but can be successfully thrown together quickly with store-bought dulce de leche and frozen tart shells. If there's no time to make the meringue, serve them with whipped cream.

What You'll Need

  • 9 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup finely ground graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 2 cans condensed milk
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup

How to Make It

  1. Begin making the tart shell dough by creaming the butter with the light brown sugar until very smooth and light in color in the bowl of a standing mixer.
  2. On low speed, add the vanilla, flour, cookie crumbs, salt, and cinnamon and stir just until well mixed
  3. Turn mixture out onto counter, shape into a flat disk, and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  5. Place tart dough onto floured surface and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut circles about 1 inch greater in diameter than tart shell molds. Place dough into the tartlet molds and trim off excess dough even with each of mold.
  1. Prick bottom of shells with fork and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until dark golden brown.
  2. Let tart shells cool and tap them gently out of the molds. Set aside.
  3. Pour the evaporated milk and condensed milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the cinnamon sticks, a pinch of salt, and the baking soda.
  4. Cook on low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and turns a rich caramel color, about 45 minutes. The mixture can come just barely to a The mixture can come just barely to a simmer, but must be stirred constantly to prevent burning and sticking. When you can drag a spoon or spatula across the bottom of the pan and see the bottom for 1 to 2 seconds, the mixture is ready. (See recipe for dulce de leche)
  5. Place the 4 egg yolks in a heatproof bowl (reserve egg whites for meringue). Just before removing caramel mixture from the heat, quickly whisk a small amount of the caramel into the 3 egg yolks until smooth.
  6. Add the egg yolk mixture back to the dulce de leche in the pot, and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes more.
  7. Remove from heat. Spoon dulce de leche into tart shells, filling them.
  8. Prepare the meringue: place egg whites in the (very clean) bowl of an electric mixer, and attach the wire whisk.
  9. Place the sugar, 1/3 cup water, corn syrup, and pinch of salt in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil.
  10. When the temperature of the sugar syrup reaches about 240 F (115 C), or after about 3 minutes, turn on the mixer and start beating the egg whites.
  11. When the temperature reaches 248 F (120 C), remove the syrup from the heat. The total cooking time is about 4 minutes, and the sugar syrup should make thin threads if you drizzle it off of a fork, and will have thickened.
  12. The egg whites should be forming stiff peaks. Slowly and carefully pour the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl, into the beaten egg whites. Continue to beat the meringue until it cools, about 5 minutes. Fold in 1 teaspoon vanilla if desired.
  13. Spoon or pipe the meringue decoratively over the tarts, then place tarts under the broiler (watching carefully) for 1 to 2 minutes to lightly brown the meringue topping.
  14. Serve tarts chilled or at room temperature.

Notes: The dulce de leche can be prepared in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl over a pot of boiling water. This method requires less stirring, because the mixture will not burn or stick, but takes much longer. It's also important to make sure the water in the bottom of the double boiler does not boil away completely.

If using store-bought dulce de leche, heat it in heavy saucepan until almost boiling, then mix with the egg yolks as directed.