Who doesn’t like a drizzle of sticky, sweet caramel over ice cream, a slice of cake or simply your finger? That’s a rhetorical question; no need to answer.
I’ve made caramel quite a few times, although I’ve never written about it. Today, I present this classic to you with a new twist. Instead of starting with the usual granulated white sugar, this caramel showcases coconut sugar. I’m exploring alternatives to refined sugar, and coconut sugar intrigues me. It’s like granulated brown sugar, but with a deeper flavour, and without a hint of coconut in case you’re wondering. According to my friend Wikipedia, it’s not made from coconuts, but from the sap of coconut palm flower buds. Cool.
Coconut sugar produces a dark, dark caramel with an intense, deep flavour that’s less sweet than the classic, although I can attest that eating it by the spoonful as I did today can still induce some jitters. I assure you, I only did that in the interests of research.
Honestly, it only takes about five minutes to make this, so there’s no reason you can’t have a jar of it in the fridge, ready for drizzling. Or for making a caramel crunch topping for muffins. Or how about as a dip for almonds to give a healthy snack an indulgent twist? I just may have done that quite a bit lately. Pretty wild over here.
Coconut Sugar Caramel
I take a relaxed approach to making caramel. Instead of giving precise cooking times or temperatures, I rely on my senses of sight and smell. It may take a few tries to be able to judge when the caramel is just to the right point, so it’s a good idea to start with a small batch like this. One thing I’m not relaxed about is the risk of burns when working with molten sugar — be careful! I keep forgetting to measure the amount this batch makes — by the time I think of it … well, let’s just say it’s too late. I’m going to guess it makes about 1/3 cup. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but a little goes a long way.
Note: have a basting brush and glass of water on standby.
- 1 tbsp water
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- pinch sea salt
- 1/4 cup whipping cream (35% fat)
Place the water and sugar in a small, heavy saucepan. If you choose to stir them together (I don’t), try not to splash up the sides of the pan. Put the pan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. I swirl the pan carefully at the beginning and then stir gingerly with a fork once most of the sugar has melted and only the centre is still dry. If any crystals form on the sides of the pan you can brush them off with the lightly wet basting brush, but this may not be necessary.
Boil the caramel until the bubbles become quite large, sticky looking and slow to burst. At this point, I’m relying on smell; I want the caramel to take on a deep aroma, almost but not quite to the point of burnt. This may take a bit of practice, but there are worse ways to spend some time.
Once the sugar has reached the right point, remove the pot from the stove and set it on a heatproof pad. Add the pinch of salt and carefully pour in the cream, stirring with a fork or whisk. I’ve found that molten coconut sugar doesn’t bubble up as much as granulated sugar when the cream in poured in, but be careful just in case. Return the pot to the stove, and cook for about a minute more.
Set the pot on a trivet to cool for 10 or 15 minutes, then decant the caramel into a jar or bowl and put it in the fridge. Once chilled, put on the lid or other cover. The sauce will become thicker and stickier when cold, but will still be drizzleable (I’ve decided that’s a word). I wouldn’t keep it more than a couple of weeks in the fridge, but do you really think it would last that long?