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Most grocery stores start having 'baking sales' right about now.  I usually stock up for the coming year whle these baking ingredients are cheaper.  This year the sweetened condensed milk price hasn't been as low as usual. 

What can you use if you don't have sweetened condensed milk? (If you want one without dairy or table sugar, see here.)

While playing with it in recipes, I've learned a couple things about it.  One 14-ounce can is roughly the same as adding 1 cup of evaporated milk and 1 cup of granulated sugar (more accurate is 7 oz. evaporated milk and 7 oz- which is 1 cup- sugar).  You can also use half-and-half, whipping cream, coconut milk, coconut cream, or powdered milk mixed to double strength.  If you need it to be rich and are using powdered milk, add a couple tablespoons of butter.  Cream of coconut is a pretty good substitute; use the same amount.  Coconut cream is my favorite to use in this when cooking for dairy-sensitive people.  You can find it, and sometimes coconut milk powder (mix to double strength for coconut cream consistency), at Asian markets.    See photo at bottom of post.

Note-Cream of coconut and coconut cream are NOT the same. Cream of coconut can be found with the drink mixers in any grocery store. It's made of coconut milk, sugar, and stabilizers.  Coconut cream is the thick liquid extracted by crushing or grinding coconut meat. -  I've found that this homemade "sweetened condensed coconut milk" does NOT set up in the no-bake cheesecake recipe.  The homemade stuff made with actual dairy does work.  I suspect it has something to do with dairy curdling- and coconut not- when mixed with citrus juice.

If your recipe is not going to be baked, as when you're making Two-Minute Fudge, stir together the milk and sugar, then bring it to a boil to dissolve the sugar crystals.  If the food you're making will be baked, the sugar will dissolve as the food cooks.

This substitute also works in reverse: when you have a recipe that calls for 1 cup milk/cream/half&half and 1 cup sugar, you can add a can of sweetened condensed milk!

To see how to make delicious thick apple-wedge-dipping caramel, see the instructions for Making Tres Leches Cake.  Just cook the sweetened condensed milk, don't add anything else to it.

Here's a recipe for sweetened condensed milk using powdered milk:

Sweetened Condensed Milk
– for the closest version to a 14-oz can, use

1/2 c. (non-instant) powdered milk
1/2 c. water
1 c.  sugar
0-2 Tbsp. butter

 If you like to be precise, use 1 1/2 Tbsp. less than 1/2 c. water (this also gives a slightly thicker result, like the can), but the first way is very close (yields 14 3/4 oz)    Other recipes use more -or less- of any of those ingredients.  Really, they all work. That said, the 'closest' version costs $ .39 if you use no butter, and $ .53 if you use 2 Tbsp.  What a deal! One important thing to know- these recipes call for hot or boiling water so the sugar gets completely dissolved. Otherwise you get grainy condensed milk.  I usually put my sugar with the water, then microwave and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Then blend with the milk powder and butter.

For more recipes using powdered milk, see the post from 10/25/10

or the recipes from
The Wooden Spoon Cooking School.  For the class handouts for all the Wooden Spoon classes, see myFavorite Resources page.
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