Not Quite Paleo Caramels

Ok, that was one of the scariest things I've ever done. 

Not technically true, but trying to learn to make candy is a difficult process! Very Stressful.

At some point in the last 2 and a half weeks, I decided that making homemade caramels for all my friends would be a great way to show them how much I love them, and save some money at the same time.  I made the ginger snaps in my last post (and yes, I know that was longer than a week ago and I said I'd be posting more often, but hey, I AM still posting at this point: I'm bad at this) and part of that recipe was a honey-coconut sugar caramel. So of course I figured I could do it on a larger scale for christmas gifts.

This was a completely ridiculous endeavor. I really had no idea what I was trying to get into. I was looking for a creamy, chewy, stick to your teeth kind of caramel, and I didn't even know how to do that with regular sugar, and here I am attempting to do it with honey and coconut sugar.

I did more research for this than I've done for any other recipe I've tried. I hate research. I remembered the caramel recipe that went into the ginger snaps was more liquid-y, like a sauce, than like a chewy snack, plus it didn't include cooking temperatures. I did already know that sugar needs to be cooked to specific temperatures to get the end result that you want. That's where I wanted to start my research. Looking for the right temperature. Then I needed to figure out if you could even DO it with coconut palm sugar (coconut sugar and palm sugar are the same thing: I didn't know that until about an hour ago). And what about honey? How was this going to be possible???  Especially since half the point of this whole endeavor was to SAVE money, not spend a ton on experimenting with my overly fancy organic ingredients.  

(Ok, they're not really fancy, but most of my friends don't understand why I'm so obsessed with organic, unprocessed foods. Some of them are starting to catch on, but a big part of this whole caramel thing is to prove to my friends and to myself that just because you want whole, unprocessed, organic foods, you don't have to miss out on delicious treats.)

I found several recipes, and I can't remember which ones were the most helpful, but I wound up deciding to wing it. I mean, I knew you had to heat it, then add butter and cream, and then heat it again and then pour it into a pan lined with greased parchment paper. It couldn't be THAT hard, could it?

This didn't turn out to be as bad an idea as I expected it to be, mostly because I was so scared of burning it that I didn't get it hot enough. Plus the pan I tried to use was too small for the 2 cups of honey and cup and a half of coconut sugar that I tried to put in it. And then I added a cup of cream and half a stick of butter. I managed to mostly keep it from overflowing by stirring the bubbles out, but it's no small miracle that it didn't crystalize.

What I wound up with was a pan of really lovely honey flavored caramel sauce that I can't stop eating with a spoon. It was DELICIOUS, but not what I was looking for.

So I tried again tonight.

Tonight, I followed this method:

I found that video via a recipe on a blog called the Rising Spoon, which I found by searching for honey toffee rather than honey caramels. (Toffee might be the next project, waiting for this to get to the right temperature was stressful enough, plus I don't keep chocolate in the house, and you can't have toffee without chocolate.)

After trolling through the comments for a while, I spotted one by the blog's author stating the while she hadn't tried it, turbinado sugar should work. Theoretically anyway. Based on what other people have told her.

I had to seriously psych myself up for this one.

I jumped in feet first, making a double recipe. (I didn't want to have to make another batch: I have a lot of friends.) What can I say? I'm ambitious.

The first thing you want to do is watch the above video. Then watch it again. And just in case, watch it a third time. Seriously. I'm pretty sure I watched it about 5 times before attempting this.  Follow her instructions while substituting the honey for the light corn syrup (ew!) and coconut sugar for the cane sugar.  

I call these "Not Quite Paleo Caramels" because while they fall into the "Clean" category (unprocessed, no chemicals, etc.), they still have dairy, which is not paleo. I've seen recipes for caramels using almond butter, coconut milk, and various other replacements, but none using these particular ingredients together. Doesn't mean it doesn't exist, I just couldn't find it. So here:

Not Quite Paleo Caramels

Ingredients  (Double recipe)
  • 1/2 cup of organic salted butter (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream (1 cup - 2 sticks)
  • 3 tablespoons of purified water (6 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup of organic honey (1/2 cup)  -tip: use a bit of butter or oil to grease your measuring cup, you'll thank me later.
  • 1 cup of organic coconut palm sugar (2 cups)
Recommended Equipment
  • medium skillet
  • saucepan 
  • candy thermometer
  • large rimmed baking sheet
  • foil 
Wait, didn't you watch the video?  Ok, fine. I'll write it down for you to save for posterity. Print it so you can make this during the zombie apocalypse.
  • Get everything measured out and ready before you turn on any stove or heat. Grease the baking sheet, line it with parchment (NOT WAX PAPER!!!!), and then grease the wax paper. 
  • Calibrate your candy thermometer by putting it into plain (unsalted) boiling water and making sure it reads at 100 degrees Celsius and 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Trust me on this.
  • Put the butter and cream in a skillet on the lowest temp and let the butter melt while you start the sugar. The video says to use a microwave, but we're apparently working during the zombie apocalypse, so we probably don't have power.
  • Put the palm sugar in a blender and grind that stuff up. This probably isn't really necessary, but I was worried about even melting.
  • Put the water, honey and palm sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once it comes to a boil, put a lid on it for 60 seconds. 
  • Look over at the butter, it's probably totally melted by now, so you should turn it off. You just want it warmed, not bubbling.
  • Take the lid off of the sugars and clip on your candy thermometer. Stare at the boiling pot for a long time using your laser-vision to make sure the pan is heating evenly. It'll take what feels like an eternity to get to 320 degrees, but it'll shoot up really fast at the last minute. At least that's what it did for me. Do NOT, under any circumstances, walk away!!  The coconut sugar is a pretty dark brown to begin with, so this whole process was really nerve-wracking because it looks burnt to begin with. You're aiming for 320 Fahrenheit. 
  • Once it's there, add the cream and butter SLOWLY: a little at a time. Stir the pot with the candy thermometer while you do that (otherwise sugars and stuff will get stuck behind it and not mixed together properly)
  • Bring the temperature up to 240 for a softer caramel or up to 245 for a chewier sweet. I went with 245 and they're super-yummy!!

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