Yes! I finally got this recipe to work! It did still turn out a little chewier than I meant it to, mostly because I was at home alone while cooking it, and the saucepan is large and heavy, and started by trying to hold it in one hand while scraping out the caramel with the other, at which point I realised that the saucepan was really heavy and I couldn’t really hold it steady and that this was was actually a really bad idea, so I put it down very fast, before I poured boiling caramel all over myself, because I like my skin just where it is, thanks.
So then I had to use both hands to pour the caramel, which meant it came out of the saucepan quite slowly, which meant that it got to keep cooking, and the temperature probably went a bit higher than I meant it to. Though not as high as the oat caramel, which I was even more cautious with (and therein lies a different tale).
Anyway, the important thing is, this caramel set, but is still nicely chewy, and also I don’t have third-degree sugar burns, which is a secondary issue in the context of recipe creation, but important to me, nonetheless. Besides, that would have been a waste of good caramel *and* my nice dress might have been ruined, too.
Have I just made you scared of caramel? You really shouldn’t be. It’s not that scary. But you do want to be a bit sensible when pouring it out, OK?
Your Shopping List350 g sugar 100 g cocoa solids or chocolate with 99% cocoa solids – this is the totally unsweetened stuff, and you need it here) 50 g almond meal 500 g almond milk 300 g glucose syrup 75 g cocoa butter 10 g salt 50 g cranberries chocolate chips
Now what will you do with it?
Place the sugar, cocoa solids, almond meal and almond milk in a 6-8 litre saucepan and bring to the boil fairly slowly – you want the cocoa solids to melt into the milk, not burn on the bottom of the saucepan before they get a chance. Your mixture will look streaky and awful at this point, but that’s OK.
Also, yes, it will look like there is an awful lot of saucepan for not very much mixture, but please don’t be tempted to use a smaller saucepan – the mixture will foam right up to the top of the saucepan later, and a smaller saucepan would boil over.
Line a 23 cm square cake tin with baking paper, and measure out your other ingredients.
Once the sugar mixture comes to the boil, add the glucose, and boil the mixture, stirring frequently, until it reaches about 106°C.
It will foam up madly, and then slowly subside, with the bubbles starting to get bigger and slower as the liquid boils off and the caramel thickens.
Stir in the cocoa butter to melt, and continue to cook until the thermometer reads 118°C. You want to be stirring pretty much constantly now, because the chocolate wants to burn and the cocoa butter wants to separate, and you do not want either of those things to happen.
Immediately remove the mixture from the heat and pour it into the prepared baking tin. Please, please be careful doing this. It might help to get a friend to hold the saucepan while you use a (heat-proof!) spatula to scrape it out.
Sprinkle the salt, chocolate chips and cranberries over the top.
Let cool for about 20 minutes, then score into small squares, and let cool until completely firm. Cut along the score marks, which will be hard work, but it can’t be helped.
Eat, happily. This caramel is probably best stored in the fridge, between layers of baking paper, as it is fairly solid, but will – very slowly – spread out at the kind of room temperature that Melbourne is currently producing. And then all your squares will stick together, which is annoying.
You don’t have to sprinkle anything over the top, or you could sprinkle the top with dried cherries and pistachios or anything else you like the sound of. You might stir the salt in at the last minute (use a flaky sea salt) rather than sprinkling it.
This caramel is, obviously, vegan and gluten-free. It is equally obviously not nut-free, though if you are allergic to nuts, it would work with coconut milk and coconut cream replacing the almond milk and almond meal, and the result will probably taste like a chocolate crackle. At which point, I feel that you should bow to the inevitable and stir in rice bubbles at the end for chocolate rice crispy caramel! Ooh, or how about popcorn? Chocolate caramel popcorn? Yum.
Just got a bit distracted, there. If you took out the cranberries and were able to find a non-corn-based glucose syrup, this would be low fructose, but in Australia, I’m afraid most glucose is corn-based. And nothing and nobody will make this low GI, but you knew that already.
(I have been playing with oat milk caramels, which sound healthy if you squint at them sideways, but I think we all know that as soon as you are talking ‘caramel’, health-foods are not what you have in mind.)
I imagine soy milk would work, too, but I can’t bring myself to use it. Almond milk at least has an interesting flavour in its own right, but soy fails to impress me.
And that’s enough for now, I think.
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