December 22, 2009

Gingerbread Caramels (vegan/dairy-free)

At last my Christmas baking and candy making is done! The last batch of cookies (oatmeal chocolate chip) are cooling on the counter as I type. To add something new to this year's line up, I was inspired by an Edible Gifts post on the ultimate vegan sweets blog Bittersweet-- I just had to try my hand at making gingerbread caramels!

After I made the prerequisite batch of my normal vegan caramels for my son Alex, I looked at a few gingerbread variations online and came up with a plan to modify my recipe. I also decided to try adding some toasted walnuts to half the batch, leaving half plain since Alex isn't a walnut fan. This was a halfway good idea...the caramels with walnuts were AWESOME!!! but the plain ones were just good and Alex much prefers his regular caramels. The nut version reminds me of kicked up Wha Guru Chews; which if you've never had are pretty fantastic and highly addictive. I had to add a pack of these to each of my Christmas gift bags to ensure I too many weren't left in the house. Here's the recipe for those interested in giving candy making a try this year.

Gingerbread Caramels (vegan/dairy-free)
A combination of my vegan caramel recipe and the Gingerbread Caramel recipe from Martha
Makes ~60-75 large pieces of candy

2 cups sugar
2 cups soy milk
1 cup margarine (Earth Balance tub is my choice)
1/2 cup corn syrup (Wholesome Sweeteners brand if you can get it)
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts, optional but highly recommended

*Please double check your ingredients to verify that they suit your dietary needs (IE vegan, dairy-free, etc) or the needs of those you are cooking for.

-Line an 8 inch x 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a small bowl stir together the spices and salt and set aside. Measure out your nuts to have ready as well.
-Add the sugar, soy milk, margarine, corn syrup and molasses to a large saucepan, 4 quart minimum. You don't want this hot sticky stuff boiling over!
-Bring to a boil stirring often and then continue cooking over medium heat while stirring until the candy reaches 245 degrees F.
-Remove the pan from heat and stir in the spice mixture and vanilla. Stir very well to distribute the spices evenly. Then add the nuts and mix them in.
-Pour into your lined baking pan.
-Allow the caramel to cool completely. With a clean and oiled pair of kitchen scissors, snip the caramel into pieces. Wrap each piece individually with cellophane, waxed or parchment paper.
-Give at least two thirds away or you'll end up eating the whole batch!