I woke up with an odd hankering for goat milk the other day and I couldn’t figure out why. I think it was a remnant of a dream I couldn’t quite hang onto in my morning haze, because truth be told, I’m not actually a huge fan of goat milk. I love goat cheese till there’s no tomorrow, but I’ve never been a straight chugger of the milk itself. This is in direct contrast to my 14 month old; I’m pretty sure when everyone else is doing keg stands and beer bongs in college he will be pouring ice cold goat milk through a funnel and down his gullet to prove his mettle (at least that’s my hope, given his propensity for it now). In any case, I couldn’t shake the urge to tickle my tonsils with something of the goat variety, so I started thinking long and hard about how I could dress it up so it wouldn’t be quite so, well, goaty. Yes, I know the whole lipstick on a Palin adage, and it’s not that I wanted to mask the nature of the goat- just enhance it somehow.
That’s when it hit me- CAJETA! For those of you unlucky enough to be unfamiliar with this ooh la la substance- it’s basically dulce de leche made with goat’s milk instead of cow milk. The goat taste imparts more complexity on the flavor, so rather than being sweet and cloying (as I sometimes find dulce de leche), it adds a layer of depth to the caramel, kind of like the difference between a tawny and a ruby port. I absolutely love to make cajeta because of the mouthwatering odor it bestows on the entire kitchen as its reducing- make it once and you won’t soon return to your dulce de leche ways.
The cajeta recipe I link to below makes a healthy portion with which you can do many things. It keeps for several weeks sealed in the refrigerator, but neighbors go wobbly in the knees when you drop off a little tin of the liquid bronze on the doorstep for their own discretionary use. I have been meaning to do an offshoot of a David Lebovitz-inspired recipe for quite some time now, and my freshly made cajeta gave me just the excuse. When I think of caramel of any kind, goat milk included, I naturally think of peanuts, salt and chocolate. I think it stems from a banana split-centric childhood or something, only as an adult I’m even worse since I leave the banana out entirely! Anyway, Lebovitz uses caramel in little baking cups with chocolate and peanuts, so I decided to adapt the recipe for cajeta instead. I like to start with raw peanuts and roast them myself with salt and a touch of butter since canned peanuts spoil quickly and freshness is key in desserts so small you can pop the whole thing into your mouth at once. That way I can salt them with a salt of my choosing and be as liberal about it as I see fit. A word of warning- these little cups will not survive the night in your kitchen- somehow there are little elves that make their way to the tray when you’re not looking, and, before you know it they’ve disappeared hook line and sinker. For that reason, you’d be wise to eat them while their fresh, lest someone else beat you to it!
Update: I have made these little goody cups about six times since I originally wrote this post since everyone keeps clamoring for a taste of them. Word travels fast in my neighborhood and social circle, and everyone seems to want to get their hands on these puppies. Consequently I’ve been making a TON of cajeta. At first I made it with straight goat’s milk, but some folks found it a little too strong, so now I’m making it using 50% goat’s milk and 50% raw cow’s milk. The mixture to me is ideal, and apparently to others as well- I caught my neighbor in the kitchen behind my back with a wooden spoon digging straight into my container of caramel taking giant bites of the stuff. He looked just like Little Crissy in Pecker with sweet goodness running down his face and a glazed-over look of utter peace.
Chocolate-Drenched Salted Peanut Cajeta Cups
Makes roughly 20 cups
For the filling:
- ½ c cajeta
- ½ c raw Spanish peanuts
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp sea salt
For the cups:
- 20 (possibly more) small paper baking cups
- 6 oz semisweet chocolate (such as Callebaut)
- 6 oz bittersweet chocolate (such as Valrhona)
- Finishing salts of your choice (I used Tahitian Vanilla salt, Murray River pink salt and sea salt that I made from the Pacific Ocean)
- Roast the peanuts, butter, and sea salt in a 350° oven for 15 minutes stirring once or twice to encourage even coating. Remove from heat, let cool and mix with cajeta.
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat, stirring frequently to achieve uniform consistency.
- Using a small spoon, dab a bit of chocolate in the bottom of every cup. Spread it around so it evenly coats the bottom and up a little on the sides as well. Next fill the cups with about a teaspoon of the cajeta mixture. Do not mound too high, but be generous- this is the goodness you’ll be eating soon! To finish, top each cup with enough chocolate to cover the cajeta mixture. Spread it around so it evenly coats the cup and drizzles a bit down the sides as well. Sprinkle some finishing salt on top of the chocolate before it hardens so it sticks nicely. Place in refrigerator to cool and harden for 10 minutes, eat and enjoy!