I’m often asked how it is that I began making dulce de leche, the boiled-milk Phenom that Argentine tourists often write home about. Dulce de leche has been a part of my daily life, even before I can remember. No sooner do I taste it, and I’m five years old again, sitting at my grandma Dorita’s breakfast table in La Plata, Argentina, enjoying Lincoln biscuits smothered with a fresh batch of her homemade dulce de leche. It’s a curious notion, but there are sometimes things that are so dear to us, so ingrained in our everyday lives that they evolve from being an ordinary “thing” to something extraordinary. For me, this is dulce de leche. But I had forgotten this, until, in the wee hours of one fateful night, when I was reminded that I needed to come back to it if I wanted to find “me” again.
I was 33, Chief Financial Officer for a tri-state medical company, had a loving husband and four young boys at home, yet I would find myself awake most nights, aimlessly wandering the halls desperately fearing that tomorrow would be the same as today. This was in no way a reflection of my previous workplace or colleagues, but an indication that my life was off course.
This had become my nighttime ritual, until, one day I awoke with an innate determination to make dulce de leche—the real dulce de leche that my Grandma Dorita made me as a child. At the time, it made no sense to me, but yet the desire to do so was so strong, it was as if I’d been craving to learn this delicate craft for years.
After months of stirring late into the night (not to mention the pots of scalded milk I threw away), I had perfected my Grandma’s recipe. Soon after, I founded La Dorita. My grandma turned 90 in September of 2009, the same month I received our first order from our local market.
Since then, my culinary journey has continued to organically evolve. In 2012, my husband, Gastón, and I founded La Dorita Cooks, Pittsburgh’s first shared commercial kitchen incubator for local start-up and early-stage food makers. Today, we aim to help other startups avoid the very mistakes we made. I am also the author of the recently published, “Dulce de Leche: Recipes, Stories & Sweet Traditions,” (Burgess Lea Press, February 2017). I wrote this cookbook as a result of talking to dozens of persons at food shows or during demos, and realizing that dulce de leche was still very misunderstood in the United States. The book introduces “real” dulce de leche to consumers by shedding light on the Argentine traditions behind the spread and offering recipes that help root dulce de leche in the reader’s sense of familiarity.
Most recently, it was during the arduous process of making medialunas (Argentina’s signature crescent roll) that I finally found the courage to leave my full-time career in healthcare in order to dedicate myself to my dream of working with food. I had to trust in my gut, and know that once I finally took a leap of faith, the rest would take care of itself. Where it takes me, I don’t yet know, but I’m looking forward to continuing on this journey.