Hey it’s Christmas. Time to be a little naughty. Yes, I do see the irony of writing this post a mere 3 days after ranting about the evils of hidden sugars in our foods. No I am not a hypocrite. Why? There is absolutely NOTHING I am trying to hide from this recipe. I admit it. The main base is sugar on top of sugar, on top of cream, topped with chocolate. The result: a rich, creamy caramel oozing between toasted pecans and topped with melted chocolate. If you were to eat more than a few bites of these sugary delights, I assure you they would lapse you into a diabetic coma. I hide nothing!
So why am I tempting you with these tantalizing turtles? Well, because I have been tempted by these little beauties for over a week now and it’s time to share the wealth. Chocolate turtles are my holiday specialty. They are absolutely decadent! Not only did I have my usual requests from friends and family that have enjoyed them in the past, but this year I had an order of over 100 of them for company gift baskets. Needless to say, they are a popular gift around the holidays.
This is a family recipe. My grandmother made them every year and when I was about 14, she passed the torch to me. Now if you’ve ever made your own candy before, you know that most recipes are very specific about temperatures. Problem is, I never learned with a candy thermometer so I do it all by how the caramel looks and feels. I guess that’s the beauty of a homegrown recipe. It’s perfected by experience. Don’t let that be intimidating though! I will be as descriptive as I can and if this is a project you truly want to tackle, feel free to add questions in the comment section and I will be happy to answer. This is a bit of a project but the results are well worth it. Trust me, there is no better way to show your friends and family how much they mean to you this holiday season, than to grace them with some homemade chocolatey, caramely goodness.
Homemade Chocolate Turtles
About 100 pieces
* About 2 lbs of toasted pecans
* 1 bottle dark Karo syrup (16 fl oz)
* 4 cups sugar (That’s right 4 cups)
* 30 fl oz evaporated milk (2 1/2 12oz cans)
* 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
* 1 TB vanilla
* 1 1/2 tsp salt
* 1 lb good quality chocolate (I used Merckens Chocolate Disks because they don’t have to be tempered. In the past I have used the big bricks used for making chocolate bark.)
Equipment (I know I usually don’t have an equipment list but the type of equipment is important)
* Wax Paper
* Large, stainless steel pot (5 qts minimum-boil over are dangerous however you don’t want it to be too tall. You should be able to stir the mixture without putting your hand over the lip)
* Long handled, WOODEN spoon (Don’t use plastic, it will melt. Don’t use metal, it’ll burn your hand)
* med saucepan
Arrange the pecans on wax paper in clusters about 1/2″ apart. Arrange with one end of each pecan towards the center of the cluster. This will make them look like “legs” for the turtle. Make sure to do this step BEFORE you make the caramel. Once the caramel is done, it sets quickly.
For the caramel-This step chains you to the stove so clear your schedule for a couple hours. Also, you are working with boiling hot sugar here (around 300F). It doesn’t just burn, it maimes. So be extra careful and this is not a project to do with young kiddies.
On one burner, place a med to large saucepan over low heat. Add the evaporated milk and butter. Heat slowly until the butter has melted, stirring occasionally. Keep over low heat so the mixture stays hot without boiling or scalding.
On another burner, in a large, stainless steel pot, mix the entire bottle of karo syrup and the sugar. Over medium heat, stir until the sugar has dissolved in the syrup. The syrup is clear brown to slightly cloudy. Turn up the heat to medium high and bring the mix to a boil, stirring constantly (DO NOT STOP). This is your arm workout for the day. The syrup need to be at a rolling boil for about 3-5 minutes. Turn up the heat to high.
Very Carefully ladle the milk mixture into the sugar mixture, 1 ladle at a time, stirring in between. There is going to be a boil up each time you add a ladle and a lot of hot steam is going to rise. I use a long handled spoon and keep my hand on the outside edge of the pot so the steam doesn’t burn my hand as I’m stirring. The pattern is: add, allow for bubble, stir out bubble, add again. Do this continuously until all the milk is added. If the mixture stops boiling, wait a few seconds before adding another ladle. If the mixture is hot enough, it should bubble each time the cooler milk mixture is added. If it doesn’t, it has cooled down too much.
Once all the milk is added, turn the burner temp down to medium.
Stir the mixture constantly until the mixture thickens. Be patient, this will take about 20-30 min. The mixture should continue to boil but not as vigorously as before. The volume will decrease to about half. Once the caramel seems about the consistency of honey, start testing it. Dab a small about onto a bowl of ice cubes. Allow to sit for a few seconds (believe me this stuff is HOT) then see if you can fold the ribbons into a solid ball that holds it shape. It should be pliable but slightly stiff (not too stiff, I’ve almost ripped people’s fillings out that way). This may take a few attempts (I’ve never done it with less than 5 “tests”). Once it’s ready, take it off the heat and start spooning it over the pecans. Make sure to get a little caramel over each pecan to hold them together. If the caramel starts to harden, heat it up over low heat just until it flows again. Safety note: The caramel will stop boiling and look completely harmless as soon as you take it off the heat. IT’S STILL REALLY HOT. Again, cooked sugar maimes! Warn people not to “sample” until it has completely cooled.
Allow caramel to cool for at least one hour (I usually let them sit overnight). Melt chocolate in small batches (about 1/4 lb at a time) over a double boiler (or a med bowl over a pan of boiling water-don’t let the water touch the bowl). Spoon melted chocolate over cooled caramel. Allow to set then enjoy!