Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Chocolate, Caramel & Pecans. Yum!

So I've been MIA for quite a while now.  It's actually hard to believe that I haven't made a post in over a month, but my computer's been broken, I've been unbelievably busy and then decided I needed to take a bit of a break from everything. But, never fear!  I'm back, and with loads of baking ideas on my "To Do" list!  And I've actually got quite a few things I made over the holiday period that I never got around to posting that I still MUST share them with you guys.  I promise - they're not too "holiday-ish" so you can still go ahead and make them, no matter what time of year it is.   

My Canadian friends (and maybe even my American ones) will recognize the look of these chocolate blob below.  They're kinda gooey, kinda nutty and they have a catchy little jingle that goes along with them.  Do you know what they are? 
 

Turtles!!

Turtles are available all year round in Canada, but they're synonymous with Christmas.  I guess kind of like Quality Street is here in the UK. There's gotta be a time in every Canadian kids life where there was a box of Turtles underneath the Christmas tree, or when someone brought them over to your place as a hostess gift. 

So what exactly is a Turtle?  They're pecans topped with creamy chewy caramel that have been covered in milk chocolate.   


Turtles were actually invented in the US, but as far as I'm aware, they haven't been sold there in about 20 years.   They had about 5 pecans arranged like a star, and and once they were topped with caramel and chocolate they looked a bit like a turtle.  The mass market Canadian Turtles don't really look like the original version anymore - they have chopped pecans instead of whole ones, and they're a lot smaller than the original version. 
 
Back: My homemade Turtle.  Front:  A Canadian Turtle

Now, I'm not usually one that likes nuts in chocolate, but these are good.  They're really good!  And they're also pretty easy to make!  I've come up with a really simple recipe for Turtles that tastes just as good (if not better) than the original!

   
Turtles

50 Toasted Whole Pecans  
40 - 50 pieces of individually Wrapped Caramels (called Chewy Toffee in the UK - Werthers brand) 
1 - 2 Tbsp whipping cream 
300gr (10.5oz) Chocolate Coating  
Silicone baking mat 

1.  If you didn't buy your pecans already toasted, then toast them now.  You can do this by placing your raw pecans on a baking sheet and toasting them in a 350ºF (175ºC) oven for about 10 min.  Give the pecans a stir once or twice and watch carefully so they don't burn.  Let them cool fully before moving onto step 2. 

2. Place 2 pecans side by side on the silicone baking mat.  Do this with the rest of the pecans, making sure each pair of pecans is spaced about 2 inches from the next pair.
  

3. Peel the caramel/toffee pieces and place them in a glass measuring cup along with 1Tbsp of the cream.  Melt the caramel/toffee pieces and cream in the microwave on medium high power for 30 seconds and stir.  Microwave again for 30 seconds and stir.  Keep an eye on the consistency of the mixture. It should be a little bit thick, but melted enough that it will slowly flow off of a spoon.  If it's still too thick, add another tablespoon of cream to the caramel and microwave again for 30 seconds. 

4. Once your caramel/toffee is at the right constancy take a small spoonful, and drop it directly on top of the pecan pairs.  You might need another spoon to help push the sticky caramel off of the other spoon. Let the caramel cool completely once it's on top of the pecans.  After they're cool and dry to the touch remove them from the silicone baking sheet and put them on a plate or cutting board. 


5.  Melt your chocolate coating in a glass or metal bowl over a double boiler.  I used the Chocolate Cake Covering from Silver Spoon.  It's not real chocolate, but it melts, cools and dries well as it doesn't need tempering like real chocolate.  Wilton Candy Melts will work as well, but you'll need to thin them down with a bit or shortening or vegetable oil once they're melted.
 

Once your chocolate is melted, spoon a small dollop of chocolate onto your silicone mat (it should be slightly smaller than your 2 pecans are in width).  Immediately after spooning your chocolate onto the mat, place one of the pecan and caramel pairs directly onto the melted chocolate.  The chocolate should spread just enough to meet (or slightly extend past) the edges of your pecans.  


Now take a spoon full of the melted chocolate and drop it on top of the caramel covered pecans.  Use the back of your spoon to help spread it around. Make sure you've added enough chocolate to cover all of the pecans and caramel.  The chocolate should flow down the sides of the pecans so it meets the bottom edges of the chocolate base that the pecans are sitting in.
   


Repeat these steps until you've made all of your pecans into Turtles! 


* Now I know there's a lot of people who are allergic to nuts, or really don't like them in candy.  If you're one of these people, I've also come up with a nut-less version of the Turtle using pretzels. Pretzels aren't nearly as popular in the UK as they are in the US, but I did manage to find some star shaped ones in Tesco over the Christmas period that worked perfect for these.  I know that square pretzels are available in the US, but regular knot ones will work just fine as well. 
 

All that you need to do to make nut-free Turtles is simply replace the pecans with a pretzel (or 2) if they're small.  Then proceed with the same steps as the regular pecan version. 

I realize that when your first reading this, these Turtles probably sound more complicated than they actually are.  I promise - they really are pretty easy, but I admit that they can be a bit time consuming.  But - they're worth it! Really!
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