My first job was working in the retail shop of a chocolate company in my hometown of Perham, MN. I started working there when I was 15, and I sold lots of delicious chocolate-covered caramels, chocolate-covered potato chips, chocolate-covered licorice, you name it. The "oooh-aaah" item, however, was usually the TURTLE. People seemed to get more excited about turtles than anything, and I never really understood the hype. I still don't. Nah, just kidding, I totally get it now. Forgive me and please read on.
Part of my job was to taste everything, so I could describe the flavors to customers. What a delightful responsibility for a 15-year old with the appetite of a large bear straight out of hibernation. I was particularly fond of milk chocolate buttercreams, dark chocolate raspberry buttercreams, and chocolate-covered potato chips. So I was naturally well-versed in my descriptions of said items. Turtles, not so much. Of course I never really tasted them and then I surely fibbed to all of those trusting turtle fans, telling them that ours were indeed delicious: salty, sweet and sticky. I mean they probably were really good, I have no idea.
All of my tall tales seemed to work and my adorable customers would leave with little herds of turtles, excited to give them as gifts to other turtle lovers, always buying a few for themselves. Cut to today, a million years later and I have finally grown up and tried turtles for myself. Delicious! All that time I was being completely honest about the wonder of turtles. I just didn't realize it.
Part of the beauty of this recipe is the attention to making the pecans delectable, even before you blanket them in caramel and chocolate. Because you drench them in melted butter and sea salt. Okay? Okay. Kinda cute. Easy does it when melting your caramel. Gentle heat is best. About a teaspoon of melted caramel per turtle. Let them hang out for a bit so the caramel sets. Chocolate shells. These would make a cool addition to a spring party, actually, turtles are actually coming out of brumation (reptilian "hibernation" - I googled it) about now. And so are we, friend, so are we. Happy Spring!
Pecan Caramel Turtles
8 ounces pecan halves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 pound Annie B’s baking caramel, cut into cubes
6 ounces good quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
4 ounces white chocolate (optional) Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Toss pecan halves with melted butter. Spread in single layer on cooking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Bake for 8-10 minutes, turning halfway through baking time until lightly toasted. Cool.
- Arrange 4 pecan halves in a + formation on a sheet of parchment paper or silicone mat. Repeat with the remaining pecan halves.
- Melt caramel in one of two ways: Put caramel cubes in microwave safe bowl. Microwave at half power in 30 second increments until caramel begins to melt. Stir until smooth and completely melted. Or in heavy saucepan, melt caramel cubes over low heat while stirring constantly. When most of the caramel is melted, remove from heat and continue to stir until completely melted.
- Drop a teaspoon of melted caramel over the center of each pecan cluster. Cool and allow the caramel to set up.
- Melt 3/4 of the chocolate over a double boiler or set a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water. Stir frequently until melted. Remove from the heat, add remaining chocolate and stir until completely melted. Taking a spoon, drop a dollop of chocolate over the caramel portion of the turtle. Let cool until set.
- If desired, melt white chocolate using the same method as for the dark chocolate and drizzle lightly over turtles.
- Store for 2 weeks in airtight container between layers of waxed paper.
WALNUTS: Use whole walnut pieces instead of pecans.
CASHEWS: Use salted cashews instead of pecans; skip step #1. Mound several cashews in small circle on parchment paper.
Photography by Jill May