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
Food52 Review: This actually works. I was hesitant about the garlic in the sauce, but it came together. It definitely takes a long time to get to 220, so don't be alarmed when it takes about 20 minutes to get there. It mostly tastes like spicy and sweet sesame and coconut, which is a good combo. I liked it! —Stephanie Bourgeois
Makes: 20-30 caramels, depending how big you slice them
Prep time: 3 hrs
Cook time: 45 min
can unsweetened coconut milk
cup coconut sugar
tablespoon freshly grated ginger (with a microplane is best)
tablespoon freshly grated lemongrass (with a microplane is best)
tablespoon sambal olek
cup sesame seeds
tablespoons finely grated, unsweetened coconut
teaspoon fine sea salt
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 220° F.
- Stir in the sesame seeds and coconut flakes. Continue to boil, stirring often to prevent burning until temperature reaches 250° F.
- 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.