There was a time when the words “vegan” and “dessert” went together like “double shift” and “Monday.”
Thanks to Lagusta Yearwood, owner of Lagusta’s Luscious in New Paltz, the days of brown rice syrup and barely passable confections are past us, replaced with delicious vegan options that blow traditional recipes out of the water. Yearwood’s new cookbook, Sweet + Salty: The Art of Vegan Chocolates, Truffles, Caramels, and More From Lagusta’s Luscious, features desserts that combine upscale boutique ingredients in easy, at-home recipes.
Mixing two classic Italian flavor profiles, this fruity concoction is both tart and sweet, with two styles of strawberry to create a full-bodied punch. It’s a great example of using a vinegar in a dessert, a bold concept that can yield delicious results. With simple directions and a decadent outcome, this recipe is perfect for beginner cooks and kitchen experts alike.
For the strawberry powder, simply buy freeze-dried strawberries and grind them in a spice grinder. Due to the high quantity of fruit, this caramel is softer and cooks to a higher temperature than other caramels. It also has the tendency to burn, so stir gently as it cooks.
Makes 50 caramels
1 teaspoon/5g cream of tartar
1/2 cup/25g strawberry powder (from freeze-dried strawberries)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons/24g white balsamic vinegar
1 cup/240g coconut milk
1/4 cup/42g coconut oil
13/4 cups/362g sugar
3/4 cup/162g cane syrup or organic corn syrup
1 scant tablespoon/8g fleur de sel sea salt
2/3 cup/137g strawberry puree (puree thawed frozen or fresh, hulled strawberries in a blender—no need to strain)
1 pound chocolate, for dipping
Garnish: freeze-dried strawberries
Combine the cream of tartar, strawberry powder, pepper, and vinegar in a small bowl and set aside.
Combine the milk, oil, sugar, syrup, and salt in a 2- to 4-quart pot. Stir gently, then bring to a boil over medium heat without stirring. While the mixture is cooking, wash down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cool water every 10 minutes or so, to prevent sugar crystals from forming on the side of the pot, jumping into the caramel, and making it gritty.
Cook over medium-low heat (the mixture should be simmering, but not climbing the sides of the pan) until the caramel registers 275°F on a candy thermometer. Add the strawberry puree. Slowly, with minimal splashing, stir the pot periodically to avoid burning. Continue to cook until the caramel registers 282°F on a candy thermometer.
Turn off the heat and stir in the strawberry powder mixture with a whisk.
Carefully pour the caramel into molds or a prepared pan. Let set up for 20 minutes, or until slightly firm, then cover with plastic wrap and freeze.
Keep the caramels in the freezer in their molds or pan so they keep their shape. Temper the chocolate, and dip the caramels into it, using a dipping fork, regular fork, or your fingers. Garnish with freeze-dried strawberries while the chocolate is wet.
Lagusta’s Luscious treats / Photo by Lagusta Yearwood