That's because I have a confession...
I don't like chocolate. I can totally live without it. I could go every day for the rest of my years on this planet without ever having it on my tongue again.
Buttery, gooey, rich, softening against the tongue caramel? Be. Still. My. Heart.
Add fleur de sel and I'm done. Done. There is nothing better.
So, when I realized that the source of my (five years worth of!) abdominal pain may be related to dairy, my heart cracked a little at the thought of never having the amber nectar of the gods again.
Now, let me tell you - this was no small feat. I'm a caramel snob. Melted waxy squares from a bag will not do. It has to be right.
I adapted my recipe and found it opaque and creamy with a slightly coconutty taste. Bad? Not really. But it wasn't perfect caramel.
So, I tried another recipe from another blogger. Utter and complete fail. It was gritty, separated, and runny. That one ended up in the trash after cooling in the fridge overnight and yielding nothing worth salvaging.
This morning, I decided it was worth it to try one last time. I could have used the creamy caramel above for the kids' apple dip, but really? I would have been disappointed in me. I don't do disappointment well.
I came back to my original recipe with a little tweak and VOILA! It's perfect!
Thick. Gooey. Luscious. Buttery. Tasting of burnt sugar and creme brulee and vanilla and delicious.
May this bring back your faith in dairy-free cooking and put a smile on your face:
1 Cup Soy-Free Earth Balance
2 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups karo light syrup
(you may be able to sub agave, if you're avoiding corn. I haven't tested it, but I don't see why not.)
2 cups of original almond milk
2 tsp high quality gluten-free vanilla
(I skipped the booze - for shame - but you're welcome to drop that to 1 tsp of vanilla
and add 2 tbsp of maker's mark or knob creek, should your boozy heart desire)
In a small pot, pour the almond milk and bring to a simmer,
allowing it to thicken and reduce while the sugar cooks.
(There's no magic timeline for this, just let it bubble away)
In a large, heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pan (think stainless steel stock pot)
combine the first four ingredients, stirring regularly as the butter melts.
Insert a candy thermometer.
Continue to stir as it comes up to temperature.
Sugar will burn, and not in a yummy caramel-y way, so don't walk away.
Safety note: boiling sugar will burn you in ways you can't even imagine. This isn't one for the kids, folks. Stay safe and make sure you use a long-handled silicone spoonula.
When the sugar mixture comes up to 230°, add the vanilla (and bourbon, if desired)... slowly!
It will cause the sugar to expand, so be particularly careful during the next two steps.
Pour your reduced almond milk into the bubbling caramel... did I mention to do this slowly?
Bring the entire mix up to 240°
Ladle into clean jars and set on the counter to cool, then refrigerate.