In India, milk is simmered for hours until only the dense, nutty solids remain. They are mixed with sugar and spices, such as cardamom and saffron, to make burfi, a category of sweets whose decorations may include pistachios and silver leaf. Unlike dulce de leche, where milk is boiled down with sugar until it thickens to gold, here the milk remains white – burfi comes from the Persian word for snow – for a purer taste.
Knead and shape, sprinkle the treats in sugar and that’s it — you can eat them right away.
So too in the Philippines, where such moon candies are known as pastillas de leche. Although the name is Spanish, a legacy of over three centuries of colonialism, no prehistory in Spanish food seems to exist. (The archipelago is home to about 180 languages, and Filipinos switch freely from one to the other, folding in English and Spanish at will, sometimes all in the same sentence.) Pastilla is the form, like a lozenge; leche is milk, originally from the carabao (water buffalo) that tilled the fields of San Miguel, a town in Bulacan province, north of Manila.
Boiling down milk is time-consuming and requires vigilance. Abi Balingit, whose cookbook, “Mayumu” (“sweet” in Kapampangan, a major language of the Philippines), came out in February, offers a pretty simple no-bake shortcut: You sift whole milk powder and salt, then mix in condensed milk until it forms a dough . Knead and shape, sprinkle the treats in sugar and that’s it — there’s no waiting; you can eat them right away.
Balingit, 28, began posting recipes on her blog The Dusky Kitchen in the summer of 2020 as a way to cope with the isolation of the pandemic and her separation from her family in the Bay Area. (She grew up there and now lives in Brooklyn.) The blog’s title was a nod to both the dim lighting in her apartment—the little sun that reaches the kitchen from the lone window in the living room—and the only time she was able to bake: She and her three roommates worked from home, putting laptops in corners, and the walls were too thin for her to run the stand mixer without disturbing everyone’s focus. “I zoomed all day, baked all night,” she says.