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Despite being incredibly in vogue in the rest of the food world, salted caramels seem to have bypassed vegans. I have long been interested in candy making, and caramels have been on my list of things to do. The fact that no one seems to be making them made me think there was something I was missing that would make veganizing them tricky.
In my library of vegan cookbooks I have seen endless lists of cookies, cakes, brownies, ice creams, can even a custard or two, but very little candy work. What few “caramel” sauces and the like I had come across were concoctions of brown sugar and corn syrup and involved little to no caramelizing what so ever, or were even stranger mixes of things like tahini and peanut butter. What was I missing? Well, I found out this week: absolutely nothing. While working with melted sugar can be a little tricky, you will get the hang of it. These little sweets will hence forth remain a staple in my repertoire, especially for gift giving occasions as I think they are a little easier (not to mention considerably cheaper) than making truffles.
Smoked Salt Caramels
1 Cup unsweetened MimicCreme
5 Tbsp Earth Balance
2 tsp smoked salt, plus more for sprinkling on top
1 1/2 Cup granulated sugar (I used evaporated cane juice)
1/4 Cup agave nectar
1/4 Cup water
You Will Also need
Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper and lightly oil the parchment.
In a small sauce pan combine the MimicCream, Earth Balance and 2 tsp of salt. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and set aside.
In a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan combine sugar, agave, and water over high heat. Stir until the sugar has melted then bring to a boil, swirling the pan but not stirring. Bring to boil and let cook, without stirring, until the sugar begins to turn a golden brown, about 248°f on a candy thermometer. Carefully stir in the cream mixture – it will bubble up – and simmer, stirring frequently, for 10-15 min until the mixture reaches 248°f on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and pour into prepared baking dish. Let cool in refrigerator at least 2 hours until set.
Cut caramels into one inch squares, sprinkle with remaining salt, and wrap in 4 inch squares of parchment.
A few notes:
- BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN WORKING WITH MELTED SUGAR. It is extremely hot and will stick and burn badly if you spill it on yourself.
- After adding the cream you can test the consistency of your caramel by dropping a spoonful into a glass of ice water. It will cool and you will be able to judge the consistency. Stop cooking when it is to your liking.
- For this batch I used a smoked salt, but you can experiment with any high quality sea salt. Flor de Sal seems to be the standard people are using. If you are going to go the gray salt rout I would recommended Sel Gris, as I find it has a little more flavor due to its higher mineral content. Murray River Pink Salt salt would also be a good choice. Any good, coarse, sea salt should work fine though.
- These caramels can also me enrobed in tempered chocolate for a more finished looked as well. I would go for a bittersweet chocolate, as the caramel is sweet enough.
- I used MimicCream, but you could also substitute coconut milk. The fat content makes it an excellent substitute for cream, but it will add a little coconut flavor to your caramels.
- Most standard recipes for caramels call for corn syrup. In candy recipes, corn syrup is used for it’s glucose content, which prevents sugar from crystallizing. During my research for this recipe I discovered that agave nectar will serve equally well as an invert sugar, so not only is this recipe dairy free, it is also corn syrup free!