I'd like to be able to make caramel without using any dairy products for my friends and family who are lactose intolerant or vegan. Usually when I make caramel, I use a recipe close to this one with a few small alterations:
- I substitute 1/2 cup of light brown sugar or 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar for the same amount of granulated sugar because I like the flavor.
- I use salted butter instead of unsalted butter and salt because it's convenient.
- I add some lemon juice to the sugar before cooking to prevent crystallization.
- At step 4, I heat the caramel to 250° F and at step 6, to 235°.
This generally yields good results for me. I read elsewhere that coconut milk can substitute for the heavy cream, but when I tried substituting coconut milk and coconut oil for the cream and butter respectively in my recipe, I got burnt toffee instead of chewy caramel. Also, it looks like the oil pooled on the surface instead of staying mixed. Why does my caramel feel like it was cooked to hard crack? Does coconut milk burn at a lower temperature than heavy cream, and if so, what temperature should I be cooking this caramel to? Is there a better vegan substitution that I can use here?
EDIT: I've found other recipes which use coconut milk instead of heavy cream, but I've noticed that they tend to make recommendations which run counter to the ones in my normal recipe, like stirring the syrup continuously, mixing everything together at the start instead of adding the fat after heating the syrup, and heating to lower temperatures. I would like to understand the reasons for these differences.