You know those nights when you get really specific cravings for certain foods? Well, one night I was needing vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce. Not just any vanilla ice cream, the kind of vanilla ice cream that has vanilla flecks in it – that’s the best kind. Super creamy and yum. As a side note – if you’re vegan/dairy free and reading this, I highly recommend Alpro’s vanilla ice cream (there’s a review of the whole range here).
So. I hunt in the freezer. No vanilla bean ice cream. No salted caramel sauce. My cravings were increasingly looking like they were going to go untended to. At this point it was 11.30pm (don’t judge me), so the ice cream just wasn’t going to happen. Salted caramel sauce, however….that can be made at home pretty quickly and I’d picked up a can of coconut milk for this very reason earlier in the week.
I set to. But me being me, I wanted to make it slightly different to the gazillions of like for like vegan caramel sauce recipes on the web. I wanted to try and make it using less sugar. I mean, I doubt it could be made sugar free, and have a similar taste and texture because well, the clue is in the name: caramel. Caramel, by definition, is sugar cooked until it turns brown. So I went with using half the amount of sugar which would give something to caramelise, and it could later have additional sweetener added to it.
The sweetener I used is by Sukrin and is a brown sugar alternative. It does have a slight cooling effect on the tongue, but the amount used here is designed so that this doesn’t effect the taste or texture – it simply does as it’s supposed to and adds sweetness with a little. Combined with the silky smooth, melty texture the coconut milk lends, any of the said cooling effects go completely unnoticed anyway as the two traits are similar. One of my better ideas, I’ll admit!
Now. The ‘jam’ aspect. I put my hands up and admit that this was in fact, a complete and utter mistake. I should’ve really put two and two together to make four, but apparently I put two and two together and only made one. It was 11.30pm though, remember. That’s my excuse anyway. My intention was to just use the arrowroot as a thickener so more liquid could be added to the sauce, so you’d effectively be getting more volume but with very little to no effect on the taste.
Why arrowroot, you ask? Arrowroot starch/powder works differently in that when it’s cooked out it doesn’t give a cloudy appearance. This is why it’s used as a thickener or setting agent in jams. I didn’t want my salted caramel sauce to be whiter than it should be, or have a cloudy appearance – and that was the initial thought, rather than remembering that it causes things to set.
The lucuma? This is me indulging slightly in my overly-stocked pantry of chia seeds, Peruvian stone cold milled cacao powder and magical unicorn dust from the Brazilian rainforests. It is now widely available both online and in-store, and it is one ‘superfood’ that I would consider investing in if you’re interested or intrigued by that kind of thing. It’s naturally sweet with a unique caramel taste to it and is delicious – unlike spirulina. I can only apologise if you have ever been tricked into trying a ‘really good for you’ spirulina shot. I hope your tastebuds have made a full recovery.
Anyway, it was a happy accident that delivered the most delicious, spreadable yumminess for an indulgent Sunday morning toast topper, or gently melted once again to pour over ice cream.
- 1/2 can full fat coconut milk
- 30g coconut sugar
- 20g brown sugar alternative
- 1 tsp lucuma powder
- 1/2 tsp arrowroot powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Make sure the can of coconut milk is properly shaken and the coconut water and coconut milk aren’t separated. Add the milk to the saucepan (not a black one, see Notes below) and whisk in the coconut sugar.
- Bring to the boil and allow it to boil, stirring, for a few minutes until the colour deepens. Due to the colour of the coconut sugar, it will have a brown colour to begin with, but you want this to deepen. Take care though – once it’s gone too far you can’t reverse it, but you can always put a bit more heat under it if it’s not dark enough. Err on the side of caution. Remove from the heat.
- In a small dish, mix the lucuma and arrowroot powder with a little water to dissolve it. Add a spoon of the caramel and stir in to temper it (so the cold arrowroot-lucuma mix isn’t going straight into really hot caramel). At this point, when the caramel isn’t bubbling, you can take a small spoon to taste test the level of caramel if you would like – just make sure it’s not too hot!
- Stir the arrowroot-lucuma mix into the caramel mixture and turn the heat back on. Keep whisking as the sauce begins to bubble again and thicken. At this point, you can still continue to develop the caramel flavour if needs be. Depending on how thick you want it, you can whisk in a splash of additional water to reach your desired consistency. Remember: it will thicken up a fair bit once it’s cooled. For the jam consistency, mine was pourable – roughly a consistency a little thicker than double cream.
- Stir in the brown sugar alternative and salt
- Pour into a jam jar and clip down or screw on the lid, and leave over night to set to a spread, and will be thicker the following days after.
- This can also be used as a liquid salted caramel – you have the best of both worlds! Just gently melt it slightly.
- Don’t use a black non stick sauce pan – so long as you keep stirring it, it shouldn’t stick. But if you use a black pan, it makes it very difficult to see how dark the caramel is.
- Lucuma powder has been called a ‘superfood’ by many. It has a natural caramel flavour to it, hence why I used it here. I haven’t tried it without but I would imagine you can just leave this out. It might not be quite as thick as it will lend some slight thickener properties, but most of the jam like property will be down to the combination of the arrowroot and the setting of the coconut.
- The brown sugar alternative can of course be replaced with more coconut sugar. If it’s not sweet enough for you, you can always add extra sugar. Scroll to the above paragraph to see my explanation of why I used this sweetener.