It's the difference between coffee and café sua da.
Remove its label, toss it in a pot, heat it up—and you've got dulce de leche.
Yes, it comes in a can. Yes, it's had a recent resurgence in popularity.
Sweetened condensed milk, developed to avoid the hazards of spoiled dairy, has come a long way since it was distributed as a protein-packed field ration for soldiers. This addictive ingredient has gone global. Specialty restaurants worldwide drizzle it across Filipino halo-halo, serve it up as a dip for North Indian jalebi and stir it into a neon spectrum of Taiwanese dessert drinks. (It's one of the original Bubble Tea phenomenon's four key ingredients.)
You'll also find it at the trendiest NY and SF eateries, though chichi chefs may not be forthcoming. An anonymous North Beach restauranteer owns up to the fact his head chef uses it, but instructs staff to "Hide the cans in the dumpster out back!"
"Because it's fattening, or because it requires a can opener?" we ask. He shrugs.
Same hesitations? Buy it fat free. (Yes! There's a nonfat version.) Push the can to the bottom of the recycling bin. Chant "Biotin. Calcium. Iodine. Magnesium. Pantothenic acid. Potassium! Riboflavin. Vitamins A, B12, C, D and K. Soldiers!" If none of that resonates: close your eyes and lift the spoon. Deliriously rich.
Go over the top with sweetened condensed milk buttercream frosting.