I must admit, I love a challenge. The sense of achievement after a hard fought success is particularly nice, especially for the chronically competitive such as myself. So, when a vegan friend bemoaned and lamented the lack of dairy, egg and honey free desserts, I immediately thought
and my mind began ticking over. It did take a while, but when it struck me, I knew it was simply the only way to go; how to combine the two most complimentary dessert flavours into a sufficiently interesting vegan dish?
Maple Pecan Caramel Squares (capitalisation deserved)
As the work crowd demolished the dairy filled version of these in mere hours recently, I will also supply you with the substitutes that should be made, in case you would like to attempt them instead.
200g plain white flour
150g vegetable shortening/Butter
75g castor sugar
Condensed soy milk:
1 litre soy milk (unsweetened)
150g soft brown sugar
Half teaspoon vanilla
Or replace these three with one tin condensed milk
2 tablespoons golden syrup
100g soft brown sugar
100g vegetable shortening/Butter
1/2 tablespoons real maple syrup
Chopped mixed nuts
10inch x 7inch deep baking tray.
Steps to Deliciousness
1) Pour soy milk and sugar into pot.
2) Take book in one hand, wooden spoon in the other, and reduce to one third over a moderate/high heat while stirring. Do not let it stick to the bottom of the pan.
This took one hour, despite my staring at it accusingly, knowing it could condense more quickly, it just didn’t want to.
Jean’s tip of the day: Pour one third of the soy milk into the pan first. Then mark the height on something – a straw, a knife, the wooden spoon. Now you have a measure of height so you can identify when it has reduced enough.
3) When the mixture has reduced , it will be slightly thicker. Add the vanilla essence.
4) Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.
5) Line the baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Cut a rectangular piece of the paper, and slit the corners. It will slip nicely into the tray.
6) Beat the vegetable shortening/butter into the castor sugar. If you’re using butter, it should go a little white.
7) Rub in the flour with your fingertips. Do this quickly, and do not over work it. You want the consistency of breadcrumbs. If it goes greasy or grey, start again.
8) Press this evenly into the baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes until it’s golden brown. It will be soft to the touch.
(Warning: Do not actually touch – From experience, as it is just out of the oven, it is very hot).
9) Put a small plate in the fridge, and move onto the caramel creation.
10) Add the condensed soy milk/milk, vegetable shortening/butter, brown sugar, golden syrup and maple syrup to a pan.
11) Keep this at a gentle boil and stir like your life depended on it. Make sure you are covering the whole base of the pan. Unfortunately, in order for the sugar to dissolve, the temperature needs to be high enough that it will burn if it’s not stirred.
12) The vegan caramel thickens in about 20 minutes, but the butter version can take almost an hour. When it turns rich golden brown and seems thick, drop teaspoons of the mixture onto the cold plate to see if it sets solid and holds its shape.
It is essential to eat these testers to ensure that you are, in fact, making delicious maple caramel.
13) Pour onto the base, and smooth out. Top with toasted mixed nuts and pecans, and leave overnight before attempting to cut it.
14) Success. Sit back and reap the rewards of being victorious, and possible diabetes.