No Recipe for Dulce de Leche Candy, Yet

by Maggie Battista on May 1, 2014

in Featured, Food Gift Love

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I watched her move in the kitchen, with a frenetic pace that I’m sure, if bottled, could power the universe.

“This candy is so fussy,” she said. “One minute, it’s cooking and the next moment, it’s just a mess.”

She means overdue, past done, a big seized-up situation not worthy of the name dulce de leche candy. My mother is busy stirring, watching the pot for the perfect moment and I haven’t seen her this way in years. In fact, I haven’t seen her try to make this candy from my childhood since… I was a child. Watching her is exhausting and exciting and I’m mightily aware that this moment matters, probably more than any other moment in recent years.

Well, there was one moment that rivaled this one. It was a couple years back, when she was in between treatments. I was invited to Provincetown, the very tip of the state, for a business meeting. One night near the ocean felt like the right time to get her away from Boston, away from her rigorous medical schedule, away from cancer.

Just before a dinner party off Race Point Road, I noticed the sun was setting and decided that a drive to capture its final moments was worth being just a wee bit late to dinner. We drove and drove, a few miles further than I had planned, and as we perched over the highest hill, we saw it. The sun had spread out to color in all of the blue of the sky and the blue of the ocean. In fact, there was no sky nor ocean, just reams of golden light.

My mother whispered, definitely wonderstruck, “Maggie, it looks like heaven.”

And, you bet, I cried a little under my thick sunglasses, broad enough to cover every last tear, I think. She had a moment and then I had a moment and without looking at each other, we knew it mattered. We didn’t talk about it really. We parked the car, stared for a few minutes, and then decided that we were too far past fashionably late.

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We didn’t talk about the dulce de leche candy moment either. I watched her miss the perfect candy stage, tossing away the pot of crumbly sweetened milk. She quickly started another batch, keeping her hawk-like attention to stirring and testing the texture.

My mother finally got it almost right, though she was never quite satisfied with the result. No matter, because, it tasted like every single sweet memory from age seven to about twelve, when I’d tear into our family kitchen for three minutes to slice off a taste from the candy plate, sneaking out before being noticed.

I’m in love with this candy and so tempted to keep it all for myself. But I have the moment so you’ll get the recipe, you know, the very moment we get it just right for the cookbook.

This post is brought to you by my 15-minute writing session with Cheryl Sternman Rule at The Big Traveling Potluck last weekend. All it took was one sentence, Cheryl. Thank you.

I’m thinking about my mother all the time, but especially at this Mother’s Day. We’re planning a pretty food-filled morning. I put together a gift box for your Mother, if you’re looking for something extra special. It’s filled with so much, including an equally special candy. Yum.

Dulce4

All photos taken by Maggie Battista. Gift box photo taken and styled by Heidi Murphy/White Loft Studio.

Eat Boutique discovers the best small batch foods by boutique food makers. We share recipes, maker stories and city guides to eating boutique. We host tasting events and markets for food makers, cookbook authors and food fans. We craft seasonal, regional gift and tasting boxes and sell individual items that you can order in the Eat Boutique Shop. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagramTumblr and Pinterest.

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Maggie Battista

Founder at Eat Boutique
Maggie, is the founder of Eat Boutique. She started Eat Boutique as a blog in 2007, and sold out of her first gift box of small batch independent food in 2009. Maggie continues to offer unique and delicious handmade food in tasting subscriptions and seasonal gift boxes for food fans and home cooks. Maggie also hosts Eat Boutique Markets, where she spotlights cookbook authors and food makers. She’s written for Style Me Pretty, Food52, Time Out New York, Spencer Magazine, and writes a cocktail column for the popular wedding blog, Snippet & Ink. Maggie's also created retail experiences for the largest floral and event design company in New England. She regularly travels far distances to find the next great chef, farmer, food maker or host. You can follow her worldwide – and homemade – gastronomic adventures on Twitter at @mizmaggieb or @eatboutique. Maggie's writing her first-ever cookbook Food Gift Love to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in fall 2015.

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  • Cheryl

    Oh, Maggie, this is all you. I relate on a very deep level, with a mother who also suffered through cancer treatments in Massachusetts. (We have a lot to talk about the next time we’re together.) In the meantime, keep writing “no recipe” recipes. This one was so, so lovely.

  • jenb276

    I remember mom telling me about that trip & how much fun she had!

  • merry jennifer

    Gosh, I just love this post, Maggie. You had me in tears (again!), but they were so worth it. xo

  • heidi | white loft studio

    you’re such a beautiful writer, always straight from the heart. and your mom is pretty special too, xo.

  • Jane, The Heritage Cook

    Maggie this was perfect. I love the way Chery’s starters evoked such different memories from each of us there. It was a pleasure to meet you and I hope you enjoyed BTP as much as I did!

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