Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Gourmet Spiced Turtles with Vanilla Bean Caramel, Dark Chocolate, & Sprinkled with Vanilla Bean Fleur de Sel + Toffee Chips

Gourmet Spiced Turtles with Vanilla Bean Caramel, Dark Chocolate, & Sprinkled with 
Vanilla Bean Fleur de Sel + Toffee Chips
Back when I lived in Savannah, there were candy kitchens pretty much at every block. Pralines were their number one seller by far, so much so that if you just walked in the store, a hot, freshly-made praline sample was handed to you. Naturally, that just meant we walked in and out about 5-10 times. Of course, who wouldn't? Most of their treats were quite tasty, but I could never get on board with store-bought turtles. I'm not quite sure why, but they just weren't my gig, ya'know? Well, a couple weeks ago, I had a custom order request from an Haute + Heirloom Etsy buyer, asking me if I could whip up some gourmet turtles for her. I had never made them, but I knew how to make all the components and I was sure I could spice them up some to make them extra special. The first component are the pecans. A lot of the time, no one does anything to them. Some people might toast them or salt them slightly, but I went with the extravagant route by "spicing them". After being toasted in butter, I added in some fleur de sel, cinnamon, ground ginger, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, chili powder, & cardamom. They are all perfect, comforting fall spices. I also sweetened them up a bit with sugar to give them a crackly crust (um yumm). Now onto the caramel... the gooey, sticky, chewy caramel that is speckled + scented with vanilla beans and flavored with a dash of fleur de sel. If that doesn't make your mouth water... then I don't know what would. The caramel will harden & solidify, which means they are ready to be covered in chocolate. Tempering chocolate may seem like a daunting task, but really it is all scientific. You just gotta be aware of the temperature and keep it even throughout the entire process. Once you pour the tempered chocolate over the caramel, it will quickly begin to settle, so while it is still soft, sprinkle the tops with some vanilla bean fleur de sel and toffee chips (just for presentation & extra flavor). Even though these candies are a little more labor-intensive than the ones you can buy in a store, the quality alone speaks for itself. And that's coming from a girl who hated turtles prior to making this recipe!! Enjoy :)
clustering the spiced pecans...
making the vanilla bean caramel...
pouring the vanilla bean caramel over the spiced pecan clusters
a little extra salt neva hurt no'body
ready for the chocolate...
I experimented a little bit by adding on some chocolate stour marshmallows--yumm!
now it's time for the tempered chocolate, fleur de sel, & toffee bits
For the Spiced Pecans:
16oz Pecan Halves
3T Unsalted Butter, Melted
½t Salt, Cinnamon, Ground Ginger, Pumpkin Pie Spice
¼t Freshly Grated Nutmeg, Chili Powder, & Cardamom
1-2T Sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)

For the Vanilla Bean Caramel:
¾C Heavy Whipping Cream
½C Sugar
1/3C Dark Brown Sugar
3T Light Corn Syrup
2T Unsalted Butter, Cubed
1t Vanilla
1 Vanilla Bean, Split & Scraped for Seeds
½-1t Salt (depending on your taste)

For the Dark Chocolate Coating:
12oz High Quality Bittersweet or Semisweet Chocolate, Roughly Chopped
Vanilla Bean Fleur de Sel, For Sprinkling
Toffee Chips, For Sprinkling

1. For the Spiced Pecans: For the pecans, preheat oven to 350°F. Toss pecan halves with melted butter and kosher salt and spread onto a large sheet pan. Toast the pecans, stirring halfway through cooking, until fragrant and golden, about 10 minutes; set aside until cool enough to handle. Once you can handle them, toss them with the spices and sugar until it adheres. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and arrange cooled pecans into X-shaped clusters or feel free to place the pecan pieces into small mounds to yield a more rustic-shaped cluster.
2. For the Vanilla Bean Caramel: For the caramel, combine the cream, sugars, and corn syrup in a medium-sized, heavy saucepan and whisk until incorporated. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Please do NOT stir the mixture after it comes to a boil; if necessary, dip a pastry brush in water and brush down the sides of the pot to remove any sugar stuck to the sides. Continue boiling the mixture until it reaches 250°F on an instant read thermometer, about 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in butter, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds.
3. Working quickly, spoon a generous teaspoon or so over each cluster of pecans. Allow clusters to set, uncovered and undisturbed, for at least two hours but preferably overnight.
4. Tempering the Chocolate:To melt and temper the chocolate coating, prepare a double boiler or set a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water. Add approximately 3/4 of the chocolate (the remainder will get added in after the initial heating) to the top of the boiler. Melt the chocolate, stirring often, until it reaches the following temperature(s) on an instant read thermometer: 116 to 120°F for semisweet; 110 to 112°F for milk chocolate, and immediately remove from the heat. Add the reserved chocolate and continue stirring until the temperature drops to the following: 82 to 86°F for semisweet;80 to 84°F for milk chocolate. Return the chocolate to the boiler and heat on low until the temperature rises back up to 90°F, watching carefully to make sure the chocolate does not exceed the temperature.
5. Finishing the Turtles: Drizzle the tempered chocolate over the caramel-covered pecan clusters. Sprinkle the top with some vanilla bean fleur de sel and some toffee chips. Set aside in a cool place to set. Turtles will keep for up to two weeks, stored between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container at room temperature.

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