Growing up in America, caramel has a very different connotation than the salty, creamy, artisanal variety that the French have perfected over hundreds of years. My American caramel memories consist of those grainy, artificially flavored candies wrapped in plastic, which were given out on Halloween. In the ranking of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Butterfinger bars, you couldn't even hope to trade those caramels during post trick-or-treating candy bartering. And then there is the caramel sauce that comes in squeeze jars intended as an ice cream topping. I recall it tasting distinctly like plastic.
After moving to Paris, I discovered the bliss of salted French caramel. Made with butter, sugar and of course, Guérande salt from Brittany. I drizzled it on cakes, lattés, stocked up my pantry with caramel lollipops and bags of soft caramels brought back from weekend trips to Normandy... my signature caramel move is to spoon it directly from the jar to indulge my nighttime sweet tooth. Full blown salted caramel addiction.
This could not go on. I decided to find an alternative: vegan salted caramel with natural sweetener.
Coconut cream (only the cream, refrigerate to separate cream from liquid), 1/2 cup
Maple syrup, 1/2 cup
Honey, 1/2 cup
Coconut oil (virgin), 1 tablespoon
Vanilla, 1 teaspoon or 1/2 seed pod
Big pinch of salt
Place coconut cream in refrigerator for a few hours to separate the cream from the liquid. Reserve liquid for future baking (like a chia seed energy bowl) and use the thick cream.
Place maple syrup and honey in a sauce pan and let simmer (without stirring) and lightly bubble for 2 minutes.
Stir in coconut cream, salt and vanilla and lightly simmer for around 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.
If desired thickness has not been reached, just continue simmering (remember, it will thicken as it cools as well).
Remove from stove and add coconut oil.
Let cool in refrigerator and serve over anything you fancy. One of my favorite uses is drizzling it over almond chai lattés...