Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Joy's Coconut Caramel

At right, fresh pineapple doused with Coconut Caramel and coconut milk.

So it's a shade egocentric to name a recipe after yourself, but I'm really proud of this one.

Caramel is generally made by adding butter and cream to caramelized sugar. Not vegan, but the usual substitutes for dairy can impart an odd taste. After many experiments with soy creamer and Earth Balance, I scrapped the idea and started from scratch. Here, coconut milk adds a barely discernible taste and provides necessary fat, and since there are really only two ingredients, the flavor notes stay very pure. The resulting caramel is perfectly smooth, with a bit of elusive smokiness.

About Caramel:

Although this recipe is fairly simple, it does require some understanding of the caramelization process. When sugar is heated to the point of melting (with or without water), it begins to color and caramelize. If left as is, it will solidify into a hard mass. If water is added, it becomes a thin sauce. If water and fat are added, the caramel develops body and a satiny texture.
Since crystallization is the enemy of a good caramel, preventing it is important. There are several ways to do this:

-Incorporate an acid into the sugar/water mixture (lemon juice, vinegar, cream of tartar); this keeps the sugar crystals from joining together.
-Once heated, do not stir the sugar mixture, and don't touch it with anything (like a candy thermometer).
-Cover the pan until the sugar mixture is completely dissolved; the steam will wash any crystals into the pan.

Caramel can burn very quickly. But for a proper caramel, do take it to the closest point before it actually does. It should be the color of an older penny, and should smell a bit sharp. It might take a few tries to muster the courage, but it's worth it. The color can be tested by carefully dipping strips of white paper into the caramel.
Adding the water will make the caramel bubble up--use a pan with high sides and stand back. Caramel is extremely hot and can do serious damage, so you might consider wearing plastic gloves while making it.

Joy's Coconut Caramel
about 1 cup

1/2 cup cold water
one pinch cream of tartar, or a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar (I prefer cream of tartar, as it doesn't impart a taste)
1 cup evaporated cane juice
1/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cups full fat coconut milk (not light), at room temperature

Add the cold water, cream of tartar, and evaporated cane juice to a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Avoid Teflon, as the coating can be damaged by extreme temperatures. Stir the mixture briefly with a clean finger to dissolve any lumps.
Cover and cook over medium heat, swirling to dissolve, 3 to 7 minutes. When the syrup is completely clear, uncover and increase heat to medium-high. Cook until deep brown. Be patient; this can take around 10 minutes.
Immediately remove from heat and pour in the boiling water, whisking until smooth. Slowly whisk in the coconut milk. Allow to cool slightly before serving or storing. Keep in the refrigerator in a glass jar for up to a month.

This is excellent drizzled over Caramel Almond Bread Pudding


conscient said...

Hello - this is Spencer, recently back in Denver from Portland last fall, who went to the fur protest this last saturday and the benefit the night before and it was awesome awesome to actually meet back up with (three prepositions at once!) other AR people and with new ones!! In portland for 5 months, I didn't even get to meet other AR people, as I was experiencing a level of 'precarity', if you will, but there evolved in me a huge need to meet other people with high ethics, and I love it!!! Keep it up! Right on. - But as a functional point to this message, I might suggest an entering of your blog into search engines - it's been quite a while since I actually created websites and entered them, but at one time it was free and you just put some META tags in the HEAD of your HTML with your title and keywords for the engines to look for, -- which ultimately might get more traffic to our page.

Sorry about the alinear rant, but there you go!


p o n d e r a e ( a t ) (gmail)

Anonymous said...

PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE COOKING: Plastic gloves are a terrible idea! If your hands get splashed with hotter-than-boiling caramel, they melt and stick to your skin while burning hot!

Joy said...

Thanks for the tip, Spencer!

Anon, you're certainly right about plastic gloves: if there's a big splash or you pour it directly onto yourself, they won't help. In that case, there's not much that will protect you (without seriously hindering your kitchen mobility, that is). In writing, I was thinking of smaller spatters and droplets, and heavier plastic gloves do a fine job protecting against those.