Dulce De Leche without the dairy? You heard me.
I’d been playing around with the idea for a while, and it was about time I did more than just think about it. With only two ingredients, the reality is just as good as what I’d imagined. Sweet, rich, and with a hint of… coconut? Yes.
Coconut is the key. Swapping coconut cream for milk was the spark of inspiration for this, and it worked perfectly. Spreadable, spoonable, and completely delectable. A thick and creamy caramel sauce that’s easy to make, and sure to please.
I chose to use mine in these salted caramel and chocolate tartlets, inspired by Gooseberry Mooseberry’s vegan short-crust recipe, but the caramel sauce could be used in most any application. It would be fabulous as a dip for crisp apple slices, or poured onto coconut ice cream, or spooned over… you know, you’re taste buds.
I was pretty determined to make these tarts not only vegan, but gluten-free… after much trial and error, and five (yes, five) batches of tart shells in the trash, I managed to make one that held up for the photographs… but wasn’t particularly tasty. The gluten-free flour simply wouldn’t hold together in such a delicate application as this, and needless to say, I wasn’t really up for more experimenting. If you’d like to make the tarts, you can use virtually any crust recipe you like. If you aren’t concerned about gluten-free, I do recommend Gooseberry Mooseberry’s vegan short-crust – just be sure to use the proper flour.
Dulce De Coco-Leche
(Vegan, makes about 1 cup)
1 1/2 (15oz) cans coconut milk, unsweetened, full fat
1/2 cup + 2 TBSP vegan dark brown sugar
pinch of salt (optional)
In medium sauce pan, add one can of coconut milk and the fat off the top of a second can. This is easiest to do if the can is chilled in the fridge for 24 hours first, as the fat will solidify and separate from the liquid. Simply spoon the fat off the liquid and into the pot — discard the remaining liquid, or refrigerate it for later use.
Add the brown sugar, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
Once the mixture begins to bubble, reduce the heat to low and cook for 40-50 minutes, stirring frequently (every thirty seconds to a minute) until the sauce is very thick and reduced by more than half. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan as you stir.
Once the caramel has thickened to your liking (keep in mind that it will thicken a lot more once it is cooled), remove it from the heat. Add a pinch of salt if desired, to taste.
Optionally, pour the caramel through a fine mesh sieve to smooth out any lumps. Use immediately, or store in a jar or air-tight container for up to a couple of weeks. (The caramel will thicken significantly once chilled, but can be easily reheated to a smooth, pourable consistency.)
UPDATE: I’ve received several comments from readers who say the caramel sauce began to separate in the pan when they made it. My apologies if this has happened to you! I’ve never had a problem with this on my end, so I’m not sure what’s going on… I’m going to play around with the recipe more (perhaps the brand of coconut milk matters??) and will come back with anything I find out.
For the tarts:
(Vegan, makes four 4inch tarts)
1/2 batch vegan tart crust
1 batch dulce de coco-leche
8 oz. vegan dark chocolate chips, melted
pinch of sea salt for garnish, optional
pinch of shredded coconut for garnish, optional
Make the crust, press into tart pans, and pre-bake until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Fill shells with 2-3 TBSP of warm dulce de leche, and tap gently to level it out. Top each with 1-2 TBSP melted vegan chocolate, tipping the tarts to spread the chocolate evenly. Refrigerate 10-20 minutes, or until fully set. Can be stored in the fridge for up to several days in advance. Remove from the tart molds, and optionally garnish with a small sprinkle of sea salt or shredded coconut.