It’s been scientifically proven that 97.2 percent of the world’s population loves the turtle. There’s something for everybody, and yet it’s elegant in its simplicity: chocolate, caramel, nuts. It’s like a little candy haiku. This is one of those recipes that isn’t particularly difficult but does require a good game plan. Read it through a couple of times before embarking on it, and you’re sure to succeed. Click here for more classic candy recipes
- ¾ cup plus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- ¾ cup evaporated milk (6 oz)
- ⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
- ½ vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped out, pod reserved (or ½ tsp pure vanilla extract)
- 80 to 100 toasted pecan halves (a generous cup or about 4½ oz)
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- 1½ tsp coarse sea salt
- 2 cup chopped dark chocolate (13 oz)
- Maldon sea salt, for garnish (optional)
Stir together the sugar, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and vanilla bean and seeds (if using) in a large (6- to 8-quart) saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, uncovered and without stirring.
While the caramel mixture is heating up, arrange the nuts on the prepared baking sheet: place 4 or 5 whole pecans in a star shape for each turtle; about 20 stars in all, leaving at least 1 inch between stars.
Once the caramel mixture has come to a boil, insert the candy thermometer. Add the light corn syrup, and stir gently with the heatproof spatula until everything is mixed well. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often and making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to keep the mixture from burning, until the mixture reaches 230°F/110°C (thread stage), about 30 minutes.
Add the butter to the caramel mixture, and fish out the vanilla bean with a slotted spoon. Stirring continuously, cook the caramel until it reaches 241°F/116°C (soft-to-firm ball stage), 15 to 20 minutes; it will be a deep tawny color and have slow, rolling bubbles in the center. Remove it from the heat.
Stir in the salt and the vanilla paste or extract (if using), making sure to mix well so that they’re distributed evenly. Wearing your oven mitts, carefully pour the caramel into the candy funnels. Allow it to cool for about 5 minutes, stirring it a couple of times, until it thickens up a little bit and has the consistency of hot fudge.
Pour a couple tablespoons’ worth of caramel onto each pecan cluster. Allow them to set up until they are no longer warm, about 20 minutes. (It’s helpful to clean and dry one of your candy funnels or measuring cups now, so that you can use it to top the turtles with chocolate later.)
Temper the 2 cups chocolate. (Click here to learn how to temper chocolate)
Once the caramel has set up, pour some prepared chocolate into the clean funnel (you’ll need to refill it as it empties). Top each turtle with about a tablespoon of chocolate. You want enough chocolate so that it covers most of the caramel, but the turtles’ heads and tootsies should still be visible. Gently tap the baking sheet on the counter, one end first and then the other, to even out the chocolate. Garnish the center of each turtle with a few flakes of sea salt, if desired—just make sure to do it before the chocolate sets up completely. Store the turtles, layered with wax or parchment paper, in an airtight container at cool room temperature for up to 1 week.
Makes about 20 3-inch turtles. 3-inch candies.