These chewy Pecan Caramel Chews are reminiscent of those little caramels you used to get from trick or treating when you were little- except they're packed with pecans and dipped in chocolate. Be sure to use a candy thermometer with this vegan caramel recipe for best results. If you like your caramel extra soft or extra hard, adjust the caramelization temperature 10F lower or 10F higher respectively.
1 ½ cups + 2 Tablespoons sugar
1 ¾ cups Condensed Non-Dairy Milk
¾ cup coconut oil
½ cup agave or corn syrup
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pecans, chopped
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Line an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a heavy duty 2.5 quart saucepan add the sugar, sweetened condensed non-dairy milk, coconut oil, agave syrup or corn syrup, water and salt. Mix with your fingers being careful not to spash sugar on the sides of the saucepan. Turn heat to high, cover the mixture and bring it to a boil. Uncover and reduce heat to medium.
Prepare an ice water bath by placing ice water in a large mixing bowl. Keep this pot of ice water close by. This will serve two purposes: It will give you somewhere to dunk your hand if it gets splashed with scalding hot caramel. The pot of caramel will also get dunked into it when the proper temperature is reached in order to stop the caramelization process.
Initially, the mixture may want to boil over and the heat will have to be adjusted as the mixture reduces. Resist the temptation to crank the heat up unless the temperature stops rising. If you see smoke puffs then you're probably burning the bottom and the heat should be reduced. If you get lots of smoke, remove the pot from heat, turn on your kitchen fan and wait until the smoke stops before turning the heat back on low and slowly bringing it back up as necessary. It should take 20 to 40 minutes to get the mixture to 275F (135C). The time that it takes for the caramel to reach this temperature depends on factors like the size of your saucepan, what your saucepan is made out of and whether you're using a gas or electric range.
Remove from the heat and carefully dip the pot into the large mixing bowl for about 10 seconds in order to stop the caramelization process. Place the pot on an unheated stove top and stir in the vanilla followed by the pecans. When stirring be extra careful to not scrape the bottom. Doing so will scrape bitter burned sugar pieces into your precious caramel.
Pour the caramel into the pan and allow it to cool completely at room temperature for at least 5 hours. When pouring the mixture remember to avoid scraping the bottom of the saucepan with a spoon or spatula. When it's cooled, remove it by lifting it out of the baking dish by the parchment paper. Slice it into 1 inch squares.
Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler. Dip the bottom halves of the caramel into the chocolate and place them on a piece of parchment paper for them to cool.