Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Caramel showed up in my childhood home twice a year. First on Valentine's Day when Mom made Dad a decadent caramel / pecan pie with a graham cracker crust. Then again on Halloween, when we made dozens upon dozens of caramel apples, with apples from our trees, for the trick or treat-ers.

Caramel is sugar and milk and corn syrup and butter. Not vegan. But this recipe is vegan and I'm asking you now to promise to brush your teeth after eating this treat. It is sooooo good, you may have trouble not having a second or third piece, so I'm asking you a second thing, eat your healthy food first.

The origins of this recipe is from the Saveur website. I threw in some pecans as a tip of the hat to the Valentine's Day tradition, and to add some food value. And I added a little chili powder to make everyone wonder, besides the coconut flavor, what's different about this caramel? It's a wonderful addition. Sweet with a Hot undertone.

I found an error in the Saveur recipe - they say to cook the sugar and water in an 8 quart sauce pan. Eight quarts of pan to cook 1 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water. Ladies and gentlemen, my candy thermometer can not reach to the bottom of that pot. What could they be thinking? That the sugar water is going to roll and boil and spit in my eye? I assure you a 2 quart saucepan will be sufficient.

One more thing before we get started. Making caramel involves a lot of stirring and stirring and waiting and waiting for the sauce to get to 240 degrees. So grab a few music CDs or a book on tape to keep you from wandering away from the stove and burning the caramel. Keep the phone close if you are one to answer it every time it rings. That's everything. Let us begin.

Spicy Nutty Coconut Milk Caramels

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
16 oz coconut milk
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder (more won't hurt)
1 3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Line an 8 inch square baking dish with parchment paper and brush with vegetable shortening. Pour the chopped pecans over the paper and spread evenly, set aside.

Combine the coconut milk, corn syrup, salt and chili powder in a 4 quart saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is warm and coconut milk clumps have dissolved. Turn off heat.
Set aside.

Combine sugar and water is a 2 quart saucepan, stir to combine. Heat over medium heat, without stirring, until the sugar turns light amber and candy thermometer reads 210 degrees F. (Saveur says 310 degrees F, another error I think). Remove from heat.

Pour the sugar mixture into the coconut milk mixture and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. Keep  stirring until the caramel becomes thick and candy thermometer reads 240 degrees F.

Not quite there yet. Patience is a virtue.
Pour the hot caramel over the nuts. It will find its way to the corners and level out nicely. Now the hard part. Allow to cool. This will take at least an hour. Enough time to do the sticky dishes and walk the dog. Then cut into 1 inch squares and wrap in wax paper squares. Store at room temperature. 

I'm tagging this recipe for next years holiday treat bags. Who makes caramel that tastes this good? Who? You do. 

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