Zen & the Art of Caramels: a missive from a Vegan-Curious New Yorker
These are the best! Made by the yummiest soul. I tried a fancy caramel the other day at a shop, my friend and I each had a bite of the same piece. These vegan ones kill those fancy non-vegan ones….for real!!!
I think it is accurate to say I am, at most, vegan-curious. Meeting Alicia last summer was eye-opening in many ways, not the least of which is her absolute love of animals and our planet.
Besides being a huge fan for almost half my life (I mean, who DIDN’T host a Clueless costume-party sleepover?), I’ve always thought she was a cool chick from afar. And performing with her every night, and – even better – sharing a dressing room gave me the privilege of watching her operate up close. We played sisters – and it Felt like we were sisters …. We traded confidences, disgusting jokes, and makeup.
Every Christmas I make up a ton of caramels for family and friends-who-are-like-family. This year, I created a vegan recipe for my new sister, whose love and respect for all animals inspires even the Scroogiest of souls.
Love you, Alicia.
Here it is:
- 3 cups Brown Sugar
- 1 & 1/2 cup Coconut milk
- 2 tsps. Coconut oil
- 1 cup Agave
- 1 & 1/4 tsp. Vanilla
- 1 cup Earth Balance
- Fleur de Sel
You will need:
- Candy thermometer
- Medium size pot
- Parchment-lined or greased 12×15 inch pan
- Wax paper cut in 4 inch squares.
Yields 90-115, depending on individual size.
Throw all ingredients but the vanilla and salt in a big saucepan. Set heat medium to low.
Stir intermittently until it blows up like this:
Then settles down and starts to bubble like this:
Turn the heat down to low. Start babysitting.
Maybe give your hilarious cats some coconut oil they’ve been eyeing.
Or pose with your husband for a blog:
But don’t leave that kitchen!!
I like to stick that thermometer in when the spoon feels a little tacky. (A bit over 220.) You can do it sooner.
Every other caramel recipe I’ve read says it takes like 20 minutes. I have found this to be some crazy online person’s pipe dream.
You don’t want it to burn, but you need that heat up.
When it hits 250, count to 5 and take it off the burner! That’s just at the “firm ball” stage.
FYI it will hover a long time at 220 or just a bit over that. Don’t panic! And don’t turn the heat up! Unless you really aren’t getting ANY bubbles without stirring. Then, turn it up a bit.
Stir in the vanilla while the caramel is still in the pot. Mix it in, make those caramels smooooooth.
Pour into a parchment-lined or greased cake pan. I prefer the paper because there is plenty of oil already on those babies!
Let set overnight or at least a few hours. (I will eventually put them in the fridge if I can’t cut them right away.)
Cut into whatever shape you desire, whatever size.
As you have them lined up and ready to wrap, sprinkle a bit of Fleur de sel, to taste (yes, this is the fun part) on each one.
Challenge: see if you can get them all wrapped without eating like 2 rows.
Happy New Year!
***Jennifer Mudge met Alicia Silverstone while doing a play in NYC, where she works and lives with her husband Chris and their raccoon-like cats Foxy and Turtle. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @JenniferMudge and for more craft ideas/gifts on Instagram and Twitter @RosineNYC