Monday, February 13, 2012

Vegan Chocolate Covered Caramels

Valentine's Post #4. This recipe turned out pretty nice. It's the first recipe I've posted that has involved the whole candy thermometer/boiling hot sugar rigamarole.  I'd recommend you shoo the kids and pets out of the kitchen for the caramel making.  Cooking sugar can be dangerous--not only does sugar boil at a much higher temperature than water, it's sticky, which means that if hot liquid sugar does get on you, it will stick to your skin and keep burning you until you can scrape it off. That means you can get a much worse burn than with something like water. So be careful and stay focused during the dangerous parts.

All that said, I didn't find this recipe too difficult. I believe the agave-based caramel may be less prone to crystallization than sugar-based caramels.

A chocolate covered caramel, A chocolate caramel with a layer of peanut butter fudge, and a wrapped vegan caramel.


Chocolate Covered Caramels


Caramel:

1/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup soy milk
1/4 tsp lemon juice
a dash or two of cinnamon (optional)
1 tsp margarine (I used smart balance light)
1/4 tsp vanilla

a pinch of salt (optional--Iforgot this time)
Nuts (optional)

Mix lemon juice and soymilk and let sit for a minute. Pour into a saucepan with the agave nectar and cinnamon; stir.  Bring to a boil, stirring intermittently. Cook to the firm ball stage, 245-250 degrees F. I went to about 248. Stir continually (and watch like a hawk) for the last several degrees, scraping the bottom to prevent burning.

Cooking the Caramel


When you reach temperature, pull the pan off the heat and stir in the margarine, vanilla and salt. Pour into a pan that is oiled, lined with wax paper, or both (caramel is the very definition of sticky). Spread it out a little if necessary. Let cool. You can score it before it cools completely if you want.

Nuts can be sprinkled on top before it cools, or stirred in before it's poured.

Cooling caramel, half covered with nuts

Chocolate coating:
3/4 cup vegan chocolate or carob chips
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp soymilk

Melt chocolate and peanut butter and stir in soy milk. Pour out 1/3 to 1/2 of the chocolate mixture into a rectangle slightly larger than your caramel. Lay your cooled caramel on top. Pour the rest of the chocolate over the caramel. Cut when cool.

Alternatively, you could cut the caramel into squares and dip them individually into melted chocolate.

That would be a bit more labor intensive, though.

This recipe double or triples fine, by the way.



Here's a fun variation that's a little fancier--it has an additional peanut buttery layer.

Chocolate Covered Caramels with a layer of Fudgy Peanut Butter Filling:

Make one batch of Caramel recipe above
Make one batch of Chocolate coating recipe

Make Fudgy Peanut butter Filling:

2 Tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp agave nectar (or other syrup)
2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup carob powder*

Mix together wet ingredients. Work in powdered sugar and carob. Knead like bread dough for while. If it refuses to come together, add a little more water. Press into a wax paper lined loaf pan. Chill.


*If using cocoa, for this recipe you might want to decrease by a few tablespoons and increase powdered sugar the same amount.

Fudgy Peanut Butter Filling


To Assemble:
Pour a layer of chocolate mixture into a wax paper lined loaf pan. Lift fudge filling out of its pan and place on chocolate layer. Place a layer of caramel on top of that. Pour rest of chocolate mixture over top and sides. Chill and cut into bite-sized pieces.

You can also choose to make a half recipe of the chocolate coating and just pour it over the top and sides of the stacked peanut butter filling and caramel without bothering with the bottom foundation of chocolate coating. I found there was a certain tendency for the bottom to flake off anyway.

The fudge filling can also be eaten straight, or covered in chocolate without the caramel.

This one went over pretty well.  I liked that the fudge filling didn't need to be cooked and came together pretty fast.

Chocolate covered peanut butter caramels

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