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Anyone who's made caramel at home might be familiar with some of the associated perils: watching the sugar like a hawk; wondering if it's ready when (seemingly out of nowhere!) angry, volcanic bubbles start climbing up the sides of your pot; futzing with a candy thermometer, questioning its necessity (it's not, but it does act as a nice security blanket—just in case). There can be a lot of hand-wringing involved for something that often involves just one ingredient, even when the efforts are almost always worth it (warm caramel sauce on vanilla ice cream, anyone?).
That's what made the charming no-cook version from L.A.'s Sweet Laurel Bakery all that more enticing: a blend of nut butters, maple syrup, coconut oil, dates, vanilla extract, and a touch of salt. Sure, it's not the traditional caramel you're used to, but its uses in desserts are plentiful and the ease is lickety-split unbeatable. Spread between layers of chocolate cake, folded into blondie batter, drizzled over banana slices for an easy snack, or simply enjoyed straight-up by the spoonful, vegan caramel is another new caramel you need in your life.
This week, cofounders Laurel Gallucci and Claire Thomas (from the highly addictive site, The Kitchy Kitchen) celebrate the release of their new cookbook, Sweet Laurel: Recipes for Whole Food, Grain-Free Desserts, where they share the recipe for their beloved vegan caramel, among other innovative, beautiful desserts with flavor and health-mindedness at the fore.
A snippet of my conversation with the ladies below.
HANA ASBRINK: Tell me about the inspiration behind this "caramel."
LAUREL GALLUCCI: For me, caramel is a standard condiment, especially when it comes to desserts. The first cake I ever made with Claire was our Chocolate Caramel Cake and from that moment on, we were forever changed and Sweet Laurel began. Our Chocolate Caramel Cake (check it out in the video below) is decadent, each layer of chocolate is made complete with oozing caramel. Our caramel is not just fantastic with chocolate, it is delicious with fruit, blended into coffee, drizzled on ice cream, or just eaten by the tablespoon!
HA: How long did it take to develop the recipe before you landed on this winner?
LG: The flavor of our caramel really comes from the dates, and the roundness they bring. I built this recipe out starting with dates first, and then adding different notes, like the Himalayan pink salt and a splash of our house-made grain-free vanilla extract (made with tequila) to get it right.
HA: How beloved is this caramel among your customers?
CLAIRE THOMAS: We have clients who have a weekly order of our vegan caramel—they're that obsessed. Honestly, everything that vegan caramel touches sells. Chocolate cake—sold out. Pumpkin caramel cake—we had people DM-ing us in a fit that it was sold out within two hours of it hitting the shelves. Needless to say, it's a big customer favorite.
HA: What are some of your favorite recipes in the Sweet Laurel cookbook that highlight this caramel?
CT: So many recipes incorporate the vegan caramel, whether it's our take on alfajores to the base of our banana cream pie to our classic caramel blondies. My favorite, though, is using it as a topping on our Tres Leches Cake. It's unexpected and so, so good!
- 1/4 cup almond or cashew butter or puree, store-bought or homemade
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
- 1 or 2 fresh dates, pitted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of Himalayan pink salt
Are you a caramel lover? Let us know below!