Dulce de leche is really easy to make but it takes several hours. It doesn't require constant vigilance, but you have to stir it occasionally.
Dulce de leche Ice Cream
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound dulce de leche (about 1 2/3 cups)
1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Bring milk and cream just to a boil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, then remove from heat and whisk in dulce de leche until dissolved. Whisk in vanilla and transfer to a metal bowl. Chill and churn.
Dulce de leche
1 quart milk, preferably whole, organic and as fresh as possible
1 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
In a large, heavy pan with tall sides, combine the milk and sugar. Split the vanilla bean along its length and scrape the seeds into the pot, then throw in the pod. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
When it has reached a simmer, remove from the heat and add the baking soda and water, stirring vigorously. When the mixture settles down, return the pan to the heat and bring to a brisk simmer. Simmer for about one hour, or until it turns golden brown. You don't have to stir - go about your business and keep an eye on it. I ended up cooking it for about 2 1/2 hours and it still never got as thick as they say it will. But it still tasted delicious.
After the milk mixture has changed to a deep golden brown check it more frequently. This is where you can decide just how dense and thick you want it to be. If you want it pourable, like caramel sauce, wait just until it reaches the consistency of maple syrup - about 20 minutes after the color change - and take it off the heat. Strain through a mesh strainer into a glass jar or container and let cool. Or, if you prefer a jam-like consistency to spread on toast, crackers, and anything else you can think of, let it cook longer. It will solidify into chewy candy if you cook it long enough.I use this to sweeten my coffee, too. It's like a caramel vanilla latte only better because it's not artificially flavored.