In this vegan version of the Mexican candy jamoncillo de leche, coconut milk and coconut cream add richness to the fudge, which is teeming with toasted walnuts, candied cherries and ground cinnamon. If you’ve never made fudge before, know that it will give you an arm workout, so be prepared and maybe have a friend or loved one nearby to pass the spoon to during the six minutes of stirring needed to beat enough air into the syrup so it attains the characteristic soft texture. The flaky sea salt on top helps balance the intense sweetness of this candy, so don’t skip it.
Place the coconut cream and vanilla in a small bowl and reserve. Place a sieve over a bowl and drain the cherries in the sieve; let this setup stand to the side. Place the walnuts in a separate bowl.
In a large Dutch oven, whisk together the sugar, coconut milk, canela, salt and baking soda. Pour the cherry syrup from the bowl into the pot and stir to combine. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring the syrup to a simmer. Once foamy bubbles cover the surface of the syrup, attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and set a timer for 15 minutes. Continue cooking the syrup, stirring occasionally, until it reduces slightly, turns a shade darker and reaches 240 degrees on the thermometer.
While the mixture bubbles, roughly chop the drained cherries and add them to the walnuts in the bowl. Grease the bottom of an 8-inch-square baking pan with oil. Line the bottom and sides with strips of parchment paper or foil, letting any excess hang over the sides of the pan. Grease the paper or foil too.
Once the syrup just reaches 240 degrees, turn off the heat and add the coconut cream and vanilla to the syrup, but do not stir it in. Let the syrup stand in the pot until it cools to 180 degrees on the thermometer, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a long-handled wooden spoon or silicone spatula, begin stirring the syrup until the coconut cream and vanilla are incorporated. Set a timer for 6 minutes and continuously stir the syrup — slowly and steadily at first to prevent it splashing, and then more vigorously toward the end — until it thickens to the consistency of caramel sauce and the bubbles appear to stay trapped under the surface.
Working quickly, add the cherries and walnuts all at once and stir until just combined and the mixture thickens even more, to the consistency of peanut butter, 45 to 60 seconds longer. Immediately scrape the mixture into the prepared baking pan and press it into the corners and smooth the top. Quickly sprinkle the top with a big pinch of flaky sea salt. Let the candy stand until it cools completely and sets into a firm fudge, at least 4 hours.
When ready to serve, use the parchment paper overhang to remove the candy slab from the pan and place on a cutting board. Remove and discard the parchment paper, then use a thin-bladed knife to cut the slab into 8 rows each direction to make 64 small squares.
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