There is a story behind these tasty treats. This was my second batch. Not because the first was so delicious that it was eaten up before I could take any photos, though. The first batch was an “Eat at your own risk” kind of candy thanks to an overcooked caramel that could probably have taken a tooth out. I pride myself in being pretty good in the kitchen. I’m not afraid of recipes that require some skill because I think that I have pretty good kitchen skills. I know fancy cooking words and know the science behind some baking do’s and don’ts. My first time making this caramel was a humbling experience, to say the least. And we all need those experiences from time to time to keep us from thinking that we’re real good at something.
Some things to know before making these candies.
Lesson 1: Do not overcook your caramel! Be patient and attentive, watch it like a hawk! Candy is not forgiving.
Lesson 2: Go buy yourself a decent candy thermometer if you have any intention of ever making candy. It is a necessity.
Lesson 2: Use a heat proof spoon to avoid losing half of the plastic part of your spatula in the hot caramel.
Lesson 3: Use parchment on your pans to make removing the finished caramels a breeze.
Lesson 4: Have everything you need ready to go so that making the caramel and assembling the candies is quick and easy.
I found this recipe on a blog called Alaska from Scratch. It was my first time stumbling upon the site and it’s one I’ve now added to my blog reader. The only thing I did differently was to use a different chocolate. I was fortunate enough to come across Ghirardelli melting wafers at Target. I think I might have audibly gasped as I saw them on the shelf. It was a Christmas miracle! It is way better than candy bark. It hardens nicely, is easy to work with and actually tastes like chocolate. They have white chocolate too! Stock up. I know I’m going to.
Giving handmade gifts at Christmas is something I really love doing. Sometimes you know someone well enough to know they need a particular item, but other times you’re not sure what to get for someone and you don’t want to get them something they’re not going to use or that they’re going to throw out. Food is almost never a bad gift idea. It only takes up space for a short time, and the recipient is guaranteed to enjoy it. These candies are a great gift to give. Pack them into normal sized mason jars or cute baby ones if you’re giving them with something else or in a basket of other goodies. You could easily use walnuts or almonds instead of pecans. You could also make some with white chocolate and pack a few of each together.
The caramel recipe is fairly simple, but be sure to keep a watchful eye on it and stir is constantly. Make sure to have your pecans toasted and set up for topping before you even start the caramel. Getting the chocolate melted before you start the caramel is also a great way to make the process fast and smooth once the caramel is done. If you have another set of hands, set up a little assembly line. The caramel does begin to thicken up and harden after you remove it from the heat so it’s important to work quickly. If it does get too thick to drizzle onto the pecans, you can warm it (stirring constantly) over low heat until it thins a bit. I had extra caramel that I spread onto some parchment, let cool and cut into little pieces. The consistency was much different than the caramel on the candies since I’d warmed it again a couple times. Another example of how finicky candy can be even with just a little more cooking. It still tasted great, but wasn’t gooey like it should be.
The pecans are crunchy and delicious, the caramel is sweet, rich and gooey, the chocolate is nice and smooth and the little bit of salt on top is perfection. These are wonderful little treats. Enjoy!
Caramel Pecan Turtles with Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt
From Alaska from Scratch
For the Caramel:
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup honey
- 7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
You also need:
- 2-3 cups whole pecan halves, toasted
- Dark chocolate candy coating
- Flaked sea salt
- Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or nonstick silicone mats.
- Arrange pecans in clusters of 3, 2 next to each other and one on top, on the parchment. They shouldn’t be too close so that the caramel does not run together.
- In a heavy saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butter, sugar, honey, salt and condensed milk together, stirring occasionally.
- You can begin to melt the chocolate in the microwave according to the package instructions while the caramel starts to cook.
- Once everything has melted together increase the heat to medium high and attach your candy thermometer to the pan. Do not let the thermometer touch the bottom of the pan, you will not get a correct temperature reading. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly with a heat proof spoon.
- The moment the temperature reaches 234°F, remove from the heat and mix in the vanilla.
- Spoon the caramel onto each pecan cluster, just enough to coat, a little more than a teaspoon. If at first the caramel seems too runny, just stir and let it cool and thicken slightly. Resit the urge to cook it any longer!
- Finish melting the chocolate (or maybe someone was doing this for you while you did the caramel!) then spoon the melted chocolate on top of the caramel. Sprinkle each with a little sea salt and allow to set completely before eating or packaging up to give as gifts.