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Author Notes: I've been trying to cut unnecessary dairy out of my diet (cheese is most certainly necessary and there is no substitute), so I've been cooking and baking with coconut milk a lot recently. I was trying to make coconut caramel sauce one day and accidentally overcooked it, so I ended up with a chewy caramel candy that was surprisingly good.
The subtle coconut flavor had me wishing I had put some flaked coconut in the candies and then my imagination began to run wild with other ways I could make these more interesting. I was reminded of a Thai Cashew Brittle recipe that I saw on MyRecipes.com (http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/thai-cashew-brittle-50400000115815/) that uses fresh grated lemongrass, ginger, and sambal olek (the awesomely spicy chunky chili paste). I borrowed those flavors and added some sesame seeds for a little nuttiness instead of cashews. The result was these insanely addictive caramels that toe the line between savory and sweet. I can't stop eating them.
These can be made with an equal amount of brown sugar instead of the coconut sugar, but the coconut sugar adds a little more depth. —pigisyummy
Makes 20-30 caramels, depending how big you slice them
- 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (with a microplane is best)
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemongrass (with a microplane is best)
- 1 tablespoon sambal olek
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 3 tablespoons finely grated, unsweetened coconut
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1-2 pinches sea salt crystals (optional)
- Line a square baking dish with parchment paper.
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pot fitted with a candy thermometer, bring coconut milk to boil and then simmer over medium heat until reduced by half.
- Whisk in coconut sugar and the 1/4 tsp of salt, stir until it all dissolves.
- Cover pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Let boil, covered, for 2-3 minutes, then uncover and continue to boil, stirring occasionally until the temperature reaches 220F.
- Stir in the sesame seeds and coconut flakes. Continue to boil, stirring often to prevent burning until temperature reaches 250F.
- Remove from heat and stir in the ginger, lemongrass, and sambal olek.
- Pour into prepared baking dish and even it out using an offset spatula.
- Let cool 2-3 hours, then remove from the baking dish and slice into cubes. Wrap pieces individually in squares of waxed or parchment paper, or just store in an air tight container.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Coconut