Or: “In which I prove that I am capable of epic and spectacular failure”.
You should have seen my glee when I stumbled upon Top with Cinnamon’s stunning nutella AND caramel-stuffed chocolate cookies—my ever thought was consumed with Oh I could make vegan nutella! I know how to make vegan caramel! This will be super easy! Yay!
Ah, how naïve I was.
|WAAAAAH WHY ME source|
I’m still not entirely sure why my nutella did not come out as expected. In an attempt to make the spread a bit more authentic, I used full-fat, delicious chocolate instead of the cocoa powder often used in vegan variations. Perhaps milk chocolate really was required, and the semisweet chocolate just didn’t work with the hazelnuts texturally. I have no idea. Suffice it to say, there is no nutella in these cookies today.
As for the caramel? My attempt at making dry caramel—where one simply melts sugar by itself as opposed to with water—were twice failures, which was baffling, as I have made dry caramel several times in the past. So obviously I thought I should try wet caramel. And it was flawless, all smooth and rich in flavor and ready for those cookies.
The first time I whipped up the cookie dough, I used bananas as eggs and natural cocoa powder (foolishly thinking that Dutch-process would not be necessary in this recipe). Bad decisions right there. The dough tasted distinctly banana-y and not chocolaty enough. What’s worse, when I tried to fill the dough with caramel, it squeezed out all over the place and gave me, once baked, flat and awful-looking cookies. Yes, they tasted fine. No, they were not good enough. Not by a mile.
Nearly at my wit’s end, I decided to keep going for whatever reason and I tried making vegan chocolate-covered caramels—solid chewy caramels coated in chocolate to prevent the caramel from flowing all over the place during baking. This attempt was successful. And let me tell you: those caramel candies are actually wicked easy to make, so long as you’re patient and don’t fuck around with the instructions. They are amazing. So amazing, in fact, that I didn’t get any pictures of them before gobbling up all of the extras.
For my second stab at that cookie dough, I used Dutch-process cocoa powder and tofu instead of bananas. It was fabulous. The cookies came out soft and chewy and fluffy and filled with a little bubble of caramel—however imperfect—tinged with the taste of bitter failure as well as hard-earned victory.
|I'm tearing up just thinking about it.|
Yes. Very inspirational, I know.
So was it worth all of that slaving over a hot stove and cursing at the gods of the culinary arts? Indeed. This here is probably the best cookie recipe I’ve ever made, with from-scratch caramels and rich chocolate cookies, as gooey and sweet as one could ever possibly ask of a baked good. The salt is a necessary touch, adding that little extra burst of flavor that you just don’t get in an ordinary cookie.
Now. Here’s the recipe.
Vegan chocolate-covered caramels
Adapted from Inspired Taste
68 grams • nondairy margarine • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon
60 grams • coconut milk, full-fat • ¼ cup
23 grams • water • 1 ½ tablespoons
44 grams • light corn syrup • 2 tablepsoons
100 grams • granulated sugar • ½ cup
227 grams • nondairy semisweet chocolate • 6 ounces
Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan, then measure and cut a piece of parchment paper that will fit inside the pan and reach up the sides at least one inch. Lightly oil the parchment paper as well.
Cut 56 grams / ¼ cup of the butter into ½-inch chunks and combine with heavy cream in a small saucepan. Set aside.
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine water and corn syrup. Add sugar and gently stir, only moistening the sugar. Be sure not to get any stray grains on the sides of the pans.
Cook over medium heat until sugar comes to a boil—do not stir during this stage. Cover with a lid for another minute.
Remove lid and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the edges of the pan show a light amber color. It is recommended to use a candy thermometer to measure temperature as well—it should be about 320 degrees F. The moment it reaches this stage, carefully pour about a sixth of the butter and cream and stir. Add the remaining mixture one sixth at a time, being sure to stir carefully with each addition.
Continue cooking for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the caramel reaches a temperature of 240 degrees F. The moment this temperature is reached, pour caramel into loaf pan and let it cool for at least 3 ½ hours.
After cooling, unmold the caramel and cut with a large, sharp knife into small squares. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat chocolate and remaining butter on very low heat just until melted. Use two forks to dip each piece of caramel into the melted chocolate, then place onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Let cool and set for at least one hour. Make sure they are cooled completely (preferably refrigerated or frozen) before using in cookies.
Vegan caramel-stuffed chocolate cookies
Adapted from Top with Cinnamon
55 grams • nondairy margarine • ½ cup
55 grams • coconut oil • ½ cup
350 grams • light brown sugar • 1 ½ cups
100 grams • tofu, blended until smooth (or another substitute for two eggs) • ½ cup
40 grams • Dutch-process cocoa powder • ½ cup
1 gram • salt • ¼ teaspoon
3 grams • baking powder • ¾ teaspoon
250 grams • all-purpose flour • 2 cups
100 grams • nondairy chocolate chips • 3.5 ounces
160 grams • vegan salted caramel sauce • ½ cup
Fleur de sel, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium saucepan, melt margarine and coconut oil. Let cool slightly. Stir in brown sugar and tofu until thoroughly combined, then whisk in cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder. Fold in flour and finally fold in chocolate chips.
Scoop dough in 1 tablespoon blobs onto baking sheets lined with parchment. Make a small indentation into the center of the dough. Fill each blob ½ to 1 teaspoon of salted caramel. Top with another tablespoon of dough, then flatten and seal the edges. Sprinkle fleur de sel on top.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tops are dry. Let cool completely on baking sheet before eating.
|Hoo boy. Those crinkly tops are just getting me.|
And you know where these cookies went?
Well, let’s just say that Baby June’s family was mighty disappointed after seeing me bake these up and whisk them away to make myself a little more popular at school.
That’s just how I roll, I guess.
|It's a special kind of superpower, baking.|