When I first went off of milk, caramel (especially caramel popcorn) was one of the main things I missed. This has evolved over time. Brown rice syrup, brown sugar and many more things have been used until I finally just let caramel be caramel, which in it’s simplest form is letting sugar cook until it caramelizes to a nice golden brown color.. I do not know where I got the original proportions from. I am pretty sure it was from and old candy cook book at the library we near where we lived, WAY back before we even had kids… (on DogHillKitchen -who’s site I just found and it is GREAT! – she has a VERY similar recipe and credits the proportions to the Glad Cow Cookbook, so it may be from there. That could very well be the case as we were vegan back then… huh, except it wasn’t published until 2005, so, I don’t think it was. Hmmm… so, I guess I still don’t know…grrrrr….)
I do use Earth Balance Butter Spread for this one because some things just need that buttery flavor for me. However, if you can’t use it, you could substitute coconut oil for a 1/3 less than the amount of buttery spread that is called for (2/3 cup coconut oil).
Crockpot 365 had a great tip the other day to put your caramel into the 1.5 quart sized crackpot to keep you caramel at a good temp for dipping apples. I haven’t tried it as I do not have a little crockpot (oh, how I want one….gotta add that to my Christmas list), but when you caramel is all cooked, pour it into the mini crock, turn it on, and you should be ready to dip. Thanks for the tip, Steph!
1 cup Earth Balance margarine
2 cups sugar
1 can (14.5 ounce) coconut milk plus enough almond milk to make a total of 2 cups (coconut milk and almond milk combined)
1 cup light corn syrup replacement (see below) or light corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoon gluten free vanilla
Prepare your pan/s: Line an 8 inch x 8 inch pan with parchment or, if dipping apples, cover a baking sheet with parchment and poke the sticks into the apples. I do this by very lightly oiling my pan, then laying in the parchment so the parchment does not slide around. If you will be coating apples, you can cover a few apples and then place the remaining caramel in a smaller parchment lined container such as a bread loaf pan for the caramel you will have leftover. If making caramel sauce, have a canning jar and lid ready. I use a canning jar, pouring the sauce into a clean canning jar, letting the sauce cool before capping and storing in the refrigerator. Heat caramel sauce by putting uncovered jar in a sauce pan with water and heating to desired temperature.
Place the margarine, sugar, coconut/almond milk mixture and corn syrup replacement in a large saucepan. Clip candy thermometer to saucepan. Slowly bring ingredients to a low boil stirring very, very often. Keeping things at a low boil prevents the caramel sugars from forming grainy crystals, prevents boil over and hot sugar spatters.
Cook over medium-high heat while continuing to stir often until candy reaches 248 degrees F. For softer caramels cook to 243 for softer caramels. If you are making caramel sauce for dairy-free ice cream or for less sticky caramel (like I did for my daughter with braces) cook the caramel to 230 degrees. This takes quite a while generally 1 ½ to 2 hours with my stove, so I will do this while I have other things I am puttering around with in the kitchen. Trust me it is worth it! You could cook it at a little higher temp than I do so it goes faster, but then you need to stir continuously. It starts out very milky looking, but will become a nice caramel color when cooked. Mmmmm…
Remove saucepan from heat and stir in vanilla.
If making caramels: Pour into the prepared lined baking pan. Cool the caramel completely. Us the parchment to lift out the caramel. Snip with an oiled kitchen scissors or sharp knife . Wrap in waxed paper (You can cut your own or order then from a candy supply store. I get mine here: Sweet Celebrations ).
If coating apples: allow the caramel to cool in the pan for a minute while continuously stirring. Put sticks into apples (on stem end). Holding the stick, dip the apple using a spoon, if desired to help coat on more caramel. After coating the apples you can dip in toasted coconut, chopped toasted nuts, mini chocolate chips (such as Enjoy Life’s gfcf chocolate chips) if you would like. Place the apples on the parchment lined baking sheet. Put your apples into the refrigerator to set up or eat them as soon as they cool enough to bite. (I get my apple sticks and apple cups that do not stick to the caramel from Sweet Celebrations.)
For caramel sauce: Pour the sauce into a clean canning jar, letting the sauce cool before capping and storing in the refrigerator. When you want to use it, heat caramel sauce by putting uncovered jar in a saucepan that has water in it, heating to desired temperature.
Light corn syrup replacement
Because I don’t like to use corn syrup if I can help it…
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
Put water and sugar in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Clip a candy thermometer to the sauce pan. Do not stir! No matter how much you want to! If you need to get some sugar from the side of the pan, use a pastry brush dipped in water and run it around the top to the pan. At a low boil, cook the sugar mixture until it reaches 215 degrees (you could go as high as 220 degrees depending how thick you like your syrup – remember it will thicken more when cool). Remove pan from heat. You can put pan bottom in a bowl of cool water to quickly cool the syrup. Put syrup (you can stir it now) after it cools into a glass jar and cover.
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