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Homemade Cajeta and Paletas de Cajeta

I know, I cajeta is totally anemic.  I cooked it.  I let it bubble away.  I began to worry that I'd be left with a mere spoonful to pass amongst my eager family.  So, I turned off the heat.  I huffed and puffed over my tasting spoon I refused to lose any tastebuds due to impatience.  I sent out a silent wish as the spoon slid into my mouth.  I did a happy dance.  Because while the cajeta I buy from the market is deep-amber in color and the thick liquid on the stove looked more of a tasted the just the same.  No.  It tasted better!  Because I made it.  And doesn't that always make food a little sweeter?

Now, let's talk about my family's new favorite popsicle.  Creamy, delicious, tastes-of-Cajeta, flecked with vanilla beans...and yes, slightly anemic.  We couldn't get enough.  Use homemade or store-bought cajeta to whip a batch of these babies.  You will not be disappointed.  Heck I bet they'd be great with any variety of caramel.

Goat's Milk Caramel Sauce
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2 quarts goat's milk
2 c. sugar
One (2") cinnamon stick
½ tsp. baking soda, dissolved in 1 Tbs. water

In a large (6 qt), heavy pot, combine milk, sugar and cinnamon stick.  Set over medium heat and stir regularly until milk comes to a simmer and sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and stir in the dissolved baking soda (may foam up a bit).  When bubbles subside, return the pot to the heat.

Adjust heat to maintain a brisk simmer.  Cook, stirring regularly, until mixture turns pale golden, about one hour.

Begin stirring frequently as mixture colors to caramel-brown and thickens to the consistency of maple syrup (the bubbles will become larger and glassier).  Stir regularly to prevent sticking.  Test a couple of drops on a cold plate: when cool, cajeta should be the consistency of a medium-thick caramel sauce.  I should have let mine keep boiling, so it could get darker...but it was just one of those things.  I was being super impatient.  That said, while not as dark as "normal" cajeta, it still tasted the same- rich, luxurious, fantastic!  Next time I will cook it longer...and post an updated picture at the bottom of the post.  

Pour cajeta through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl or storage jar.  When cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Awesome cold, at room temperature, or warm.

-slightly adapted from Mexico One Plate at a Time
Paletas de Cajeta

Caramel Ice Pops
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makes 10-12

3 c. half-and-half
⅓ c. sugar
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
¾ c. cajeta
1 c. coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Combine half of the half-and-half with the sugar and salt in a saucepan.  Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean and add those and the pod to the pan.  Cook over medium, stirring until sugar has dissolved.  Remove from heat, stir in cajeta and remaining half-and-half.  Let cool slightly, discard vanilla bean pod and refrigerate until completely chilled.

Divide mixture among molds, leaving enough room for nuts if using.  Freeze until mixture has a slushy consistency, ~30 minutes.  If using nuts, divide them evenly among pops, pushing them down if they float.  Add sticks and freeze until  solid.

-slightly adapted from Paletas by Fany Gerson