Do any of you remember how I mentioned that I was planning to write fewer recipe articles? Well, I could not resist this one. My gluten free meal and dairy free dessert strategy is to convert or invent anything that I cannot find (or find easily) that fits with my food intolerance. Lately, I have had a hankering for caramel. My favourite dessert is apple pie. Was ever there a more destined union?
Caramel is actually one of the hardest things to find gluten and dairy-free. It nearly always has milk powder or cream in it, and often it will have caramel color (or other wheat products) that contain gluten. The thing is, there really is not anything about caramel itself that really requires any wheat or dairy products. We tend to focus a lot on chocolate and chocolate ganache in our dairy-free quest for flavour. I am really glad that I can add great caramel back into my dessert diet.
I actually thought this apple caramel GFCF and soy-free crumble pie (I’m still deciding on the exact wording for this one—it’s a mouthful in more ways than one). The caramel requires very close attention or else it will burn (be warned), and the graham crumb crust needs to be prepared and chilled in advance, while the apples bake in and tenderize into pie filling.
You can use your own gluten-free “graham-style” crust with a mix of pea, potato, and tapioca flour, mixed with vegetable shortening, vanilla and a little xanthan or other gum. Add pinch of salt and a half tea spoon of baking soda, too. I am not going to include a detailed “graham” crumble crust recipe here, since that would just be a fourth ball to juggle and gluten free dessert flour mixes can go wrong fairly easily. The hardest part is getting the perfect texture that feels like the real thing.
The good news with the crust is that Kinnikinnik makes a great one along the lines of the recipe I have outlined above. I have seen others that focus on a gluten-free crumble topping that could easily be used for this recipe to convert it to a apple caramel crumble (warning: check for soy ingredients!). An even easier, super quick recipe is apple caramel cobbler. If you have some caramel in the fridge it only takes 5 minutes to prep and 10 mins to bake, with very little that can go wrong.
Apple Pie Filling
- 4-6 apples
- Tablespoon cinnamon
- Quarter teaspoon nutmeg
- Tablespoon of lemon juice
- Quarter cup of white sugar
- Three quarters cup brown sugar
- 85 ml vegetable shortening or vegan margarine
- Half a cup of heavy coconut cream (ask me if you need directions for this part)
- One tablespoon of vegan chocolate chips
Peel and cut the flesh off of six small apples or four large ones. Place them into a oven pan and coat them with a tablespoon of lemon juice, a table spoon of cinnamon, and a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg. Mix them all together. I like to cover the pan with another baking sheet to keep the apples moist, but that is optional.
Follow the directions on the box, haha. Pour three quarters of the mixture into a pie tin and pat it down into a crust. Chill while the apples are baking for about 25 minutes. Test an apple piece to make sure it is nice and tender and sweet, and not grainy at all. Pour the apples into the pie tin that contains the crumb crust. Place back in the fridge to chill.
For the Caramel, you need to get out all of your ingredients on the counter before you begin. First, dump the brown sugar into a saucepan. Add the chocolate (do not add extra chocolate or it will change the consistency of the caramel). Whisk it constantly on medium heat until it boils then add the shortening. When it is all melted a moment later, quickly remove from heat and add the heavy coconut cream. Whisk it until smooth.
Pour the caramel into a jar or glass container. You can store our dairy-free caramel at room temperature without any problem for a couple of months (think of how long you would keep coconut oil before throwing it out if it went rancid if you stored it at room temp... same idea).
Drizzle the caramel sauce over the apples and then pour on the rest of the crust topping. Drizzle with a bit more caramel. Chill and serve. Feel free to heat it and serve with a scoop of dairy-free ice cream, as well.
Take this recipe and run with it.
The cool thing about this gluten and dairy-free dessert recipe is that it is easily convertible into lots of other recipes. You don't have to do it as a pie. You can use these ingredients and make a crumble, or you can substitute a gluten and dairy-free flour mix (pick on that works well for desserts, though, like millet and tapioca). You can make cookies or cakes, too. How about caramel fondue with fresh fruit. You have the technology.
You can also leave out the caramel and make berry crumble or apple crumble. Personally, I think that just having a batch of caramel sauce on hand is key to sweet culinary success. Think of the ice cream and cake desserts that you can make that will be even better with DIY caramel sauce. As mentioned above, caramel apple cobbler is also super easy. You can even do caramel shakes and drinks.
You can even drizzle a bit of caramel on desserts and add apple to millet grits and make caramel apple pie style breakfast. You may find as I did that caramel can go with a heck of a lot more than you would expect. I plan to really go nuts with this recipe and I will update this article if I invent any super amazing caramel creations.