I love caramel because it's the closest thing there is to food alchemy. Ok, maybe chocolate is close to this too but caramel involves a few basic non-exotic ingredients and a simple process. The end result is something that's truly extraordinary and more than the sum of it's parts. One of the great things about caramel is how you can just swap in certain fats and sugars to create caramels with amazing layers of flavors. The more I experiment with working with caramel this way, the more surprised I am.
I've found that building rich vegan caramel flavors (and increasingly, most other vegan baking flavor building applications) works really well when there's a small amount of unrefined coconut oil supplanting the regular fats. Unrefined coconut oil has naturally occurring compounds that mimic some of the flavors of dairy. As I developed this method further I found that a good rule is to use about 10% to 20% of the total fat consisting of coconut oil for optimum flavor. I've been using this in my latest caramels combined with vegan creams or non-dairy milk with great results. Bananas also have some of the flavor compounds found in dairy. What if I combined coconut and banana to use instead of a vegan cream and incorporated it into a caramel?
In this Banana Caramel recipe, the vegan cream is swapped out for banana puree and unrefined coconut oil. It's the most simple caramel I've ever prepared and one of the most seductive. The banana, coconut and caramel combine to make something truly special. You should be able to reduce the banana and coconut oil slightly to get a more firm caramel if you prefer. I recommend using a squeeze bottle with the top cut slightly bigger than normal for convenient application.
This is the perfect caramel for anything from apple pie, vanilla ice cream or any other dessert you want to bring to the next level.
½ cup banana puree (about 2 ½ bananas)
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon unrefined coconut oil
½ cup + 1 Tablespoon water
1 cup + 1 Tablespoon sugar
⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
In a food processor or blender, blend the banana puree, coconut oil and vanilla extract. Set aside.
In a heavy duty, medium saucepan, add the water then add the sugar and salt in a mound in the middle, taking care to not get sugar on the sides of the saucepan. In another small saucepan, add the banana mixture cover and place on medium-low heat. Cover the sugar and water mixture and bring it to a boil over high heat until the mixture registers 300F (149C) with a candy thermometer. This should take about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until the mixture registers 350F (177C) which should take about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
While you're caramelizing the sugar, bring the banana mixture to a simmer. The goal here is to add the hot banana mixture to the hot caramel; if the banana mixture boils before the water and sugar caramelization is done, remove the banana mixture from heat and leave the cover on.
Remove the cover from the banana mixture and carefully pour about ¼ of it into the caramel mixture, allowing it to bubble vigorously. When the bubbling has subsided, add the remaining banana mixture then whisk in the vanilla extract. Slowly and carefully transfer the mixture to a heat proof container placed over a wooden cutting board to insulate your work surface, cover and store in the refrigerator until cool, about 2 hours.
Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature in the refrigerator. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend on high for 1 minute. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one month. To reheat, just warm it up in the microwave or in a pot and give it a quick stir. Makes about 1 cup of Vegan Banana Caramel Sauce.
Get a price on the Saucepan I Recommend at Amazon.